H1N1 flu is a respiratory disease caused by the H1N1 influenza virus strain. This virus infects the cells that line your nose, throat and lungs. This flu is commonly known as the swine flu.
H1N1 flu was first detected in 2009. Since then, people have continued to become infected and the number of deaths from it is increasing day by day.
It is a highly contagious disease that spreads quickly from person to person through air, mucus and saliva particles. Children under age 5 and people age 50 and older are at a higher risk of suffering from swine flu.
Other risk factors include respiratory disorders, a weak immune system and pregnancy.
Signs and Symptoms of H1N1 Flu
Swine flu symptoms are similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu. They include fever, runny nose, sore throat, congestion, diarrhea, chills, body aches, nausea and vomiting. The symptoms develop about one to three days after being exposed to the virus and last for about one or two weeks.
As most symptoms of swine flu and seasonal flu are the same, it is recommended to consult your doctor for proper diagnosis, especially if you are living in a swine flu affected area.
A laboratory test will help diagnose the disease and timely treatment can prevent complications.
People with chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or kidney disease are more likely to get complications due to the infection.
Seek urgent medical attention if you experience symptoms like difficulty breathing, persistent vomiting, sudden dizziness, confusion, pain in the chest or abdomen, or if your flu symptoms improve but come back with a worse fever or cough.
Common Myths about H1N1 Swine Flu
Myth 1: You can get H1N1 flu from eating pork.
This is wrong. You cannot catch H1N1 flu from eating pork or pork products. Though similar to the influenza viruses that occur in pigs, the H1N1 virus is different from the swine flu viruses that circulate in pigs.
The H1N1 virus spreads through droplets expelled in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. When a healthy person comes in contact with the contaminated air or surface, the virus enters the body.
Swine farmers and veterinarians, however, are more prone to true swine flu.
Myth 2: There is no treatment for swine flu.
This is also not true. There are antiviral drugs that can help treat H1N1 influenza. These drugs can shorten the duration as well as intensity of symptoms. However, timely diagnosis and treatment is essential to get the most benefits from the drugs.
For treating H1N1 flu, there are currently four antiviral drugs approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) – oseltamivir, zanamivir, amantadine and rimantadine.