Influenza A (H1N1) pandemic continues to be a major public health hazard and causes many deaths every year, especially in the vulnerable group.  There are peaks in winter like any other flu virus and a higher number of cases are also seen during the monsoons. Dr Mala Kaneria, Consultant Infectious Specialist at Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre shares important inputs on swine flu.

Severity and treatment of swine flu
Cases of H1N1 have been categorized by the Government of India, based on the clinical severity and the underlying comorbidities and the management protocol has been outlined. Mild cases do not need testing or treatment. Patients with more severe symptoms need testing and if required treatment, as deemed appropriate by the physician, based on the symptoms and the associated conditions. Such patients with mild and moderate illness, should confine themselves at home and avoid mingling with the public and high-risk members in the family till the fever and cough resolve.

Patients who are severely breathless, have chest pain, blood in the sputum, bluish discolouration of the nails or a worsening of the underlying illness such as a cardiac condition, need testing, immediate hospitalization and treatment. Antiviral treatment, wherever indicated, has to be started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, for it to be most effective.

What you need to do to stop swine flu
2009 H1N1 influenza virus spreads from person to person through close contact in ways similar to other influenza viruses such as inhalation of respiratory droplets during coughing, sneezing or singing. Touching a surface that is contaminated by the secretions of an infected person or shaking hands, may transmit the virus.

Respiratory secretions, diarrhoeal stools and all bodily fluids are considered infectious. The period of infectivity usually lasts from 5-7 days from symptom onset and subsides with the resolution of fever and cough. This period of infectivity may be prolonged in severe cases, children and those in the high-risk groups. Hence, it is important to follow cough etiquette i.e covering the nose and mouth during sneezing and coughing. A minimum distance of 6 feet must be maintained by infected individuals. Hand sanitizer should be used liberally, especially during the flu season. Even simple hand washing with soap and water is effective. Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth to prevent spreading of germs. Travelling should be avoided when sick, for a minimum of 7 days.