Swine flu is a respiratory infection caused by a virus which usually infects pigs. The virus is highly contagious and can survive in the environment for days. It is not unusual for people to get the infection. Swine flu is transmitted from person to person by inhalation or ingestion of droplets containing virus from people sneezing or coughing; it is not transmitted by eating cooked pork products. The symptoms of swine flu are similar to those of common flu like fever, sore throat, cough, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may develop serious complications like pneumonia and respiratory failure.
Flu vaccination: Some basic concepts
- The flu vaccine is the best protection against the flu. If you get the flu vaccine, you are 60% less likely to need treatment for the flu . Getting the vaccine has been shown to offer substantial benefits including reducing illness, antibiotic use, time lost from work, hospitalizations, and deaths
- The flu vaccine will protect you for one flu season.
- It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection. In the meantime, you are still at risk for getting the flu. That’s why it’s better to get vaccinated early in the fall, before the flu season really gets under way
- If you are sick with a fever, you should wait until your fever is gone before getting a flu shot. However, you can get a flu shot if you have a respiratory illness without a fever, or if you have another mild illness.
- You cannot get the flu from the flu shot or the nasal spray. The flu shot contains inactivated (killed) flu viruses that cannot cause illness. The nasal spray contains weakened live viruses. The weakened viruses only cause infection in the cooler temperatures found in the nose. The viruses cannot infect the lungs or other areas in the body where warmer temperatures exist
- Every year everyone 6 months of age and older should get the flu vaccine as every year the strain of virus changes.
- Mild reactions such as soreness, headaches, and fever are common side effects of the flu vaccine.
Drug Treatment: Tamiflu (Oseltamivir)
Oseltamivir is used to treat flu symptoms caused by influenza virus in patients who have had symptoms for less than 2 days. It may also be given to prevent influenza in people who may be exposed but do not yet have symptoms. This medicine will not treat the common cold. Oseltamivir is used to treat influenza in people 2 weeks of age and older. Oseltamivir suppresses and decreases the spread of influenza A and B viruses, the viruses responsible for the flu. It does this by blocking the action of neuraminidase, an enzyme produced by the viruses that enables the viruses to spread from infected cells to healthy cells. By preventing the spread of virus from cell to cell, the symptoms and duration of influenza infection are reduced. On average, oseltamivir reduces the duration of symptoms by one and a half days if treatment is started within forty-eight hours of the beginning of symptoms.
Oseltamivir should not be used in place of getting a yearly flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control recommends an annual flu shot to help protect you each year from new strains of influenza virus.
“Prevention is always better”. Maintain hygiene in and outside your house. Always cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. People may also wear a mask. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rubs especially after you cough or sneeze. Avoid touching your face this will help prevent spread of germs. Avoid close contact with sick people, if you are sick then abstain from work or school and do not remain for long in crowded places.