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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Explained: Feels like any flu, doesn’t spread through pigs

Pritha Chatterjee explains what you need to know about the disease

Written by Pritha Chatterjee | New Delhi | Updated: February 5, 2015 4:21:30 pm

What is swine flu?
The H1N1 virus was called the ‘swine flu virus’ because in 2009, after it first started surfacing globally among humans, it was found to be similar to a virus circulating in the respiratory tracts of pigs. It was first isolated in the USA in 1930 in pigs. It is now circulating like other influenza viruses in humans, and spreads through droplet infections.

Is there a surge in swine flu this year?
Since November-December in 2014, there has been a global increase in the incidence of swine flu compared to 2013, which saw a low. Experts are still trying to analyse if this is part of the cyclical trend seen in all annual viruses, or if there is a mutation in the strain of H1N1. Depending on minor mutations in proteins, the antigen of the virus can change, which could explain why there is no herd immunity against the strain prevalent this year — and hence the spike in cases.

Can swine flu spread by eating pork products?
Several international agencies including WHO and the Center for Disease Control in the USA have said that although similar virus strains circulate in pigs, there is no risk of the H1N1 virus spreading from cooked and properly cleaned pork products. Cross infection from pigs to humans is extremely rare.

When should you get tested for H1N1?
The ideal time is between three and four days after the first onset of any common flu symptoms like fever, cough and cold. The antigen of the virus is detectable after 2-3 days, and tests positive until the fourth day. From the fifth day, when the body starts producing antibodies, the antigen disappears, and does not show in tests.

What are the symptoms of H1N1 infection?
The symptoms are similar to any common flu — fever, cough, cold and an upset stomach. Symptoms of the virus spreading to the lower respiratory tract or the lungs — which leads to most complications — include wheezing, sputum in the cough and chest pain.

Is there a high-risk group for H1N1?
Anybody who is not exposed to the virus can get H1N1, like other influenzas. But groups likely to get aggravated symptoms include children and the elderly, those who have co-morbid conditions like hypertension and diabetes, pregnant women, and immuno-compromised people such as patients of cancer or those afflicted by HIV.

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