H1N1 Virus: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatments, Prevention and at Home care

H1N1 Virus: what is it?

Influenza viruses are small viruses that affect humans and animals like birds and pigs (swine). When the influenza effects swine, it is referred to as swine flu. This respiratory infection does not normally affect human beings; but, it has been happening around the world. When swine flu affects humans, it is referred to as “variant influenza virus”.  People who contract the swine flu, otherwise known as the H1N1, are highly contagious and can spread it to other people. Human infections of the H1N1 virus occurred among people who are in contact with swine. It could happen in a farm, on a fair or a petting zoo. When people get infected, they can spread it to others, which normally leads to an epidemic.

The influenza virus is normally named according to two different proteins on the outside-surface: these r the Hemagglutinin (H) and the neuraminidase (N). Different numbers accompanying these two proteins refer to different types of influenza.  The well-known H1N1 seems to be the result of a genetic shift: meaning that it contains small pieces of different types of influenza from different sources. The H1N1 virus can easily spread from a person to another.

Symptoms of H1N1 Virus

These are very similar to the symptoms of any other flu. They include fever, cough, sore throat, body pains and aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Many also experience a runny or stuffy nose, vomiting and even diarrhea. Some, also, experience eye irritation.

Symptoms normally start appearing after three to five days from being exposed to the H1N1 virus, and can last around eight days, on average. If the symptoms are not improving, you have to refer to your doctor. Young patients may have more pronounced symptoms like having some trouble breathing, experiencing some rash accompanied by the fever, having trouble waking up, feeling confused, and not wanting to drink some fluids.

H1N1 Virus and Pneumonia

Pneumococcal pneumonia, caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae, can be a possible complication of the H1N1 virus; however, in the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, it was not reported. This bacterium can enter the lungs, invade the bloodstream and cause bacteremia. It could also invade the tissues and fluids surrounding the brain and spinal cord, causing meningitis.

Are Flu vaccines effective against H1N1 Virus?

Flu viruses that affect pigs are different from those that affect human beings. So, vaccines that are developed to protect humans from influenza are not normally expect that to protect them from influenza viruses that normally circulate among pigs. Also, because the swine flu is normally the result of bits and pieces of viruses from different species, an antigenic shift occurs which will help spread the virus easily. The flu vaccine would not have any effect on it.

Can you get H1N1 flu from eating pork?

Up till now, there is no evidence that you can get infected from swine flu by eating properly handled and well-cooked pig meat.

How does H1N1 spread from pigs to humans?

People can directly contract the influenza virus from an infected pig, and vice versa. When an infected big coughs or sneezes, droplets of influenza virus get spread in the air. If you inhale them; or, if they land on your hand and you touch your nose or mouth, you can get infected.

How does H1N1 spread among humans?

Among people, the transmission of swine flu can happen exactly the same as any other flu. You can get infected by being close to infected people who are coughing or sneezing. You can touch something that has been contaminated with droplets of H1N1; and then, touch your mouth and nose.  H1N1 viruses can easily spread among people.

Diagnosis of H1N1 virus

To be able to get the proper diagnosis, your doctor will have his physical exam at the clinic (not over the phone) to review your symptoms. If the H1N1 is suspected, a sample from the nose is collected in the to detect any possible flu virus. This fast flu test is called the “rapid influenza diagnostic test” and takes 15 minutes to show a positive or negative result.

The swine flu test, specifically, will take a few days to show a possible infection. Sometimes, if your symptoms match the H1N1 symptoms, the flu test shows a positive result and there are some cases in your area, your doctor might not take any chances and start you right away on antiviral meds. He will not wait for the H1N1-specific test results to be out.

The H1N1 treatment Guidelines

Most overcome the H1N1 flu, when taken the proper treatment, without any implication on their life and health. Make sure you get followed by your doctor.

1- Antiviral Treatment and H1N1

Treating H1N1 viruses in the USA constitutes of using any of the four FDA-approved antiviral drugs that are: oseltamivir (Tamiflu), peramivir (Rapivab), zanamivir (Relenza) and Baloxavir (Xofluza). These antiviral medicines attack the virus itself by preventing it from reproducing in your system, as well as making your illness duration shorter. They can also reduce the severity of the symptoms and prevent any possible complication. When taken directly at the onset of the symptoms (within a day or two), they work best! Your have to keep in mind that some types of flu do develop resistance to these antivirals.

2- Pain Relievers and H1N1

Since H1N1 influenza causes fever; you will most likely have to take medicine to reduce it, such as acetaminophen and Ibuprofen. These can help tame down your pain. Do not, under any circumstances, give aspirin to anyone younger than eighteen years of age as it could lead to Reye’s syndrome, which is a very serious illness. Also, keep in mind that pain relievers will not make the symptoms go away as they are not attacking the virus itself, they are just used to make you feel more comfortable.

3- High-risk people and H1N1

Some individuals are at higher risks of experiencing H1N1 complications, these are referred to as the high-risk people and include pregnant women, children younger than five years of age, elderly above 65 years, those who have chronic illnesses like heart, kidney, or liver problems and asthma, as well as individuals with an illness.

4- H1N1 treatment at home

You need to have bed rest to help your body fight this infection. You are also recommended to drink a lot of fluids to stay well hydrated. Increase your intake of Vitamin C, whether through food or supplements. Also, incorporate yogurt, garlic, leafy greens, broccoli, and oatmeal. Oatmeal is rich in immune boosting Vitamin E, as well as beta-glucan fibers. Spices like pepper and horseradish help soothe a congested chest that is common towards the end of the illness. It will help you breathe better.

5- H1N1 recommendations and tips

Your treatment will, most probably, help you. It usually consists of antivirals, cough suppressants, analgesics and lots of bed rest and fluids. You have to stay home and avoid getting in close contact with others. You are highly infectious since day one before noticing the symptoms and up to seven days after. Some can still be contagious even after seven days. Anyone who contracts H1N1 has to stay home for a week, or at least 24 hours after the fever came back to normal.

Prevention of H1N1

You can take many precautions to protect yourself from contracting the H1N1 virus. These are:

1-     You should wash your hands very often, with water and soap. Keep rubbing the soap for 15 seconds. You can also use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

2-     Germs can easily spread from a person to another. Make sure you do not touch your eyes, mouth, and nose.

3-     Stay away from people who are infected with the virus and anyone who might have got in contact with them. Some people carry the H1N1 and spread it before even knowing they are swine flu positive.

4-     If you have symptoms, similar to the H1N1 symptoms, go to your doctor.

5-     If you are taking care of a family member who is H1N1 positive, make sure you take your precautions. Do not share food, makeup, clothing, sports equipment or utensils; and consider everything the H1N1 positive individual touches contaminated. So, keep washing your hands.

6-     Change your clothes when you get back home; and if possible, take a shower. This will help clean off and prevent anything your clothes or skin might have picked up from spreading further and sickening you.

7-     Make sure you aerate the area you are in, whether at home, in the car or in the office.

8-     Sanitize your surfaces like door knobs, computer boards, kitchen counter tops, bathrooms and others. For kids, surfaces can get easily contaminated at schools. You need to explain to your child how to stay safe, wash/sanitize their hands continuously, not touch their faces, and stay away from anyone who looks sick with a cough.

9-  Breastfeeding your baby is one great way to prevent severe illnesses. If you can, try to eliminate baby formula and focus on your milk that is rich in antibodies.


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