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What You Should Know About Swine Flu

By Vikas Chandra Das
14 November 2022, 10:11 AM

In 2009, scientists identified a particular strain of influenza virus known as H1N1. This virus was a combination of swine, bird, and human viruses that caused illness in humans. During the 2009-2010 flu season, H1N1 caused a human respiratory infection commonly known as swine flu. So many people across the world fell sick that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared his H1N1 flu a pandemic in 2009. Infact, it caused close to 5,75.400 deaths globally during 2009 and 2010. WHO pronounced the pandemic to be over in August 2010. H1N1 became one of the influenza virus strains that caused seasonal flu after the pandemic was over. 

Influenza vaccines can help protect against H1N1 (swine) flu. The H1N1 influenza virus strain was included in seasonal influenza vaccines, including the 2020-21 vaccine.


The signs and symptoms of influenza caused by the H1N1 virus were similar to infections caused by other influenza strains that included:

  • Fever, but not always
  • Cold
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Watery red eyes
  • Body pain
  • Headache
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea and vomiting

The symptoms can begin to show in 1-3 days, after being exposed to the virus. 

A minority of affected individuals may develop severe respiratory symptoms requiring respiratory support. Some people develop pneumonia, while others have seizures. In severe disease, antibiotics are used to treat patients. Death is usually caused by secondary bacterial infection of the lungs.

Swine Flu Causes

Influenza viruses, like H1N1, infect the cells that line the nose, throat, and lungs. When you breathe in contaminated droplets or touch a contaminated surface with your eyes, nose, or mouth, the virus enters your body.

Please note you can't get swine flu from eating pork.

A further risk factor is that you can be exposed to the virus if you reside in or go to a region where a lot of people have the H1N1 virus.

Complications of influenza include:

  • Exacerbation of chronic conditions such as heart disease and asthma
  • Lung infection
  • Neurological signs and symptoms, from confusion to seizures
  • Apnea

Prevention Of Swine Flu

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) prescribes annual flu vaccinations for everyone6 months of age and older. The seasonal flu vaccine sheilds against around three or four influenza viruses that are anticipated to be most prevalent during this year's flu season. Getting the flu vaccine can reduce the risk of getting the flu, its severity, and reduce your risk of becoming seriously ill with the flu and being hospitalised.

Flu vaccination was especially important during the 2020/21 flu season, as the flu and the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cause similar symptoms. Influenza vaccination may reduce symptoms that may be confused with those caused by COVID-19. Preventing influenza and reducing the severity of influenza and hospitalisations can also reduce the number of people who need hospitalisation.

Influenza vaccines are available as injections and nasal sprays. Using the nasal spray is approved in healthy individuals between the ages of 2 and 49 years. Nasal sprays are not recommended for some groups, such as pregnant women, 2- to 4-year-old children with asthma or wheezing, and people with weakened immune systems. 

The following measures can also help prevent and limit the spread of influenza.

  • Clean your hands properly and often. Use soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser if not available. 
  • Cover your mouth when you cough / sneeze. Preferably wear a face mask.
  • Cough and sneeze into a handkerchief or the bend of your arm. 
  • Avoid touching your face. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. clean surface. 
  • Regularly clean high-touch surfaces to prevent virus-laden surfaces from spreading infection to your body.  
  • Avoid contact. Avoid crowds if possible. Avoid sick people. If you are at higher risk for complications from the flu (for example, if you are under the age of 5 or over 65, are pregnant, or have a chronic condition such as asthma), you should avoid getting picked up at seasonal trade fairs.

Despite taking all the precautions, the swine flu might still strike. In addition to emotional tension, there is also a lot of financial pressure. The cost of treating swine flu is high, and hospital stays are frequently prolonged. It can also be life-threatening if appropriate care and prompt treatment are not provided.

Therefore, it's crucial to have adequate swine flu insurance coverage. Lacking health insurance coverage will make it difficult for you to battle the swine flu. 

Since the swine flu is a seasonal illness akin to jaundice and is not covered by any exclusions, all health insurance companies offer coverage after a 30-day waiting period. Health insurance for swine flu is one of the concrete preventive measures.

Swine Flu Treatment

Most people with influenza, including H1N1 influenza (swine flu), need only symptom relief. Supportive measures such as drinking fluids, taking pain relievers for fever and headache, and rest may help. If you have chronic respiratory disease, consult your doctor for any additional medications.

Antivirals may be prescribed the day or two after the symptoms develop. It may reduce the severity of symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. FDA has approved four drugs:

  • Oseltamivir (Tamiflu)
  • Zanamivir (Relenza)
  • peramivir (lapivab)
  • Baloxavir (Xofluza)

However, influenza viruses can develop resistance to these drugs.

People at higher risk for flu complications include those who:

  • Are in a nursing home, hospital, or other long-term care facility. 
  • Children under the age of 5.  
  • Senior citizens- age 65 and above. 
  • Women who are pregnant or who have had a miscarriage within 2 weeks of giving birth. 
  • Under 19 years of age and on long-term aspirin therapy. Taking aspirin during a viral illness raises the risk of developing Reye's syndrome, a rare, yet potentially life-threatening condition. 
  • Have a body mass index greater than 40, which is defined as morbidly obese. 
  • Those who have certain chronic diseases such as asthma, emphysema, heart disease, diabetes, neuromuscular disease, kidney, liver or blood disease. 
  • Those whose immune system is compromised by certain drugs or HIV.


If you catch any type of flu, these measures can help ease your symptoms hence drink liquids in plenty, take enough rest, consider pain relievers. You can spread the flu to others if you have it. After your fever has subsided, stay at home for at least 24 hours before seeking the appropriate medical advice.


1. What antiviral drug is recommended for treating swine flu?

Oseltamivir and Zanamivir are the two drugs that are confirmed for its present usefulness in the treatment of classical H1N1 influenza virus infection. Oseltamivir, an oral antiviral drug, is presently recommended for treatment of swine flu.

2. What is H1N1 PCR?

TRUPCR® H1N1 (Swine Flu) Detection Real-Time PCR Kit is an in-vitro nucleic acid amplification assay for the detection of all known types of Influenza A viruses, Pandemic Swine Influenza A viruses and Pandemic Swine H1 influenza virus in respiratory samples and viral cultures using real-time PCR.

3. What is the difference between swine flu and normal flu?

Flu symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. With H1N1 flu sometimes there is diarrhoea and vomiting. If you get these symptoms, stay home and limit contacting others for at least 24 hours once your fever has gone without the use of medicine.

4. Why is H1N1 flu called swine flu?

This virus was referred to as "swine flu" because laboratory testing revealed that many genes from this new virus were quite similar to influenza viruses that commonly occur in pigs in North America.

5. How long can someone be contagious with H1N1 flu?

It's unclear for how long the H1N1 flu is contagious. However, studies indicate that it's similar to seasonal flu as it lasts for one day before symptoms appear, and then seven days while a person develops the symptoms. The period might be longer for children.

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