We’ve all heard about it, but just how serious is Swine Flu?
The virus people call Swine Flu is medically known as H1N1 influenza, which the South African Department of Health describes as “a respiratory illness caused by the type A flu (H1N1) virus. It now forms part of seasonal influenza in most countries.”
Dr Sibongile Walaza, a medical epidemiologist with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), says that this year the predominant strain is A(H1N1), and the level of transmission is similar to previous years. This was the strain that emerged globally in 2009 and which for the past several years has behaved like any strain of seasonal influenza.
Swine Flu symptoms
The Department of Health says the symptoms of H1N1 are the same as other seasonal flu strains, and usually starts with “a sudden high fever and sudden cough”. Other possible symptoms include;
- Muscle and joint pain
- A very sore throat
- Runny nose
- Sometimes vomiting and diarrhoea
- Loss of appetite
“Influenza typically resolves in 3 to 7 days in the majority of individuals,” states the NICD. “In a proportion of patients including pregnant women, individuals with pre-existing chronic illnesses like diabetes, asthma and HIV, the very young and elderly – influenza may be associated with more severe illness or complications.
These include viral pneumonia, secondary bacterial or viral infections, including pneumonia and sinusitis; and exacerbation of underlying illnesses like pulmonary and cardiac illness. Every year there are cases of severe and complicated influenza in otherwise healthy persons, however, these are rare events.”
How to treat Swine Flu
The medical consensus is that patients infected with H1N1 should be treated like anyone else with seasonal influenza.
So Swine Flu or not, you simply have to follow your mom’s advice: get some rest, stay hydrated, take your vitamins and additional supplements, manage your symptoms and take in plenty of warm liquids like herbal teas, chicken soup, homemade broths etc. This not only helps to break down excess mucus, it also helps to ease flu symptoms such as headaches and a sore throat.
“Antiviral treatment is only needed if a healthcare practitioner decides that you’re at a serious risk of developing severe illness,” reiterates the Department of Health.
Do however see your doctor urgently if you have difficulty breathing, your lips turn blue, you experience chest pains, low blood pressure or have a high fever.
Preventing the spread of Swine Flu
As with all cold and flu viruses, Swine Flu can be spread by coughing or sneezing – and the virus can live on surfaces for a number of days. So it’s best to avoid people who are infected with flu, and stay at home if you are infected so as not to spread the virus to others.
Also, wash your hands well and often, and use hand sanitisers. Wipe down surfaces, get rid of used tissues quickly and always cover your mouth when you cough.
DISCLAIMER: You must not rely on the information on this website/newsletter as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.