In a nutshell
H1N1 virus is a new type of Influenza virus affecting pigs, humans and maybe
some other animals. Humans do not yet have herd immunity to it as they do to
other types of flu viruses. Hence, it is spreading like wildfire and at a rate
faster than any other virus epidemic we can recall. By itself and at present, it
is a very low mortality viral infection and the risk of death (in kids who have
low immunity, and adults at old age especially when weakened by diabetes or
other debilitating disorders) is pale in comparison to childhood diarrhea,
typhoid, bronchopneumonia at extremes of age, and many other diseases that we
are used to.
The main worry is that the next mutated form of this virus, expected within a
year, may acquire higher levels of virulence to cause death and or severe
complications. To preempt that state of risk, we have to build the overall level
of immunity in the general population (herd immunity) either by infection or
with the help of a vaccine.
To reduce risks of vaccine-mediated injury, the R & D of Panacea Biotec has been
on the forefront in India in developing vaccines without the use of adjuvants
and preservatives which are theoretically suspected in some quarters to be
potentially toxic especially to infants. In a pandemic of this nature, there is
neither time nor requirement to do large safety studies that are mandatory to
get any new vaccine approved.
Just like any another flu, predominantly upper respiratory symptoms
like cough, cold accompanied by the usual fever, headache, body ache, loss of
appetite, sore throat, weakness, and sometimes uneasy stomach has been reported
in many cases. Mild respiratory illness (nasal
congestion, rhinorrhea) without fever and occasional severe disease also has
been reported. Other symptoms reported with swine influenza A virus infection
include vomiting, diarrhea, myalgia, headache, chills, fatigue, and dyspnea.
Conjunctivitis is rare, but has been reported. Severe disease (pneumonia,
respiratory failure) and fatal outcomes have been reported with swine influenza
A virus infection. The potential for exacerbation of underlying chronic medical
conditions or invasive bacterial infection with swine influenza A virus
infection should be considered. People at higher risk of serious complications
from seasonal flu include people age 65 years and older, younger than 18 years,
pregnant women, people of any age with chronic medical conditions (such as
asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), and people who are immuno-compromised
(e.g., taking immunosuppressive medications, infected with HIV).Mortality rate
due to the infection is about half of one percent, which is much lower compared
to many infective diseases common in day to day life.
Whenever any of above symptoms start, go to nearest Government approved
laboratories for checkup and testing for H1N1 infection. Most private
laboratories check for influenza A and B virus infection. Such test kits are not
highly specific or sensitive to catch H1N1 virus infection in time.
The antiviral drugs (oseltamivir and zanamivir) which are highly effective
against H1N1 infection are available from Government sources and must not be
used indiscriminately as it may cause resistance against virus.
If any person
tests positive, all household members and close contacts should to be treated
simultaneously and kept under watch for seven days, the time taken to build up
For symptomatic relief:
For relief of fever, anti-pyretic medications such as acetaminophen or non
steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs including Nimesulide are recommended. Aspirin or
aspirin-containing products should not be administered to any confirmed or
suspected case of influenza A (H1N1) virus infection in subjects aged 18 years
or younger due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome.
Emergency Warning Signs
If you become ill and experience any of the warning signs, seek emergency
medical care at nearest government hospital.
adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
Difficulty breathing or
shortness of breath
Pain or pressure in the
chest or abdomen
Severe or persistent
Flu-like symptoms improve
but then return with fever and worse cough
Protect Yourself, Your Family, and Community
Cover your nose and mouth
with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after
you use it.
Wash your hands often with
soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze.
cleaners are also effective.
Avoid touching your eyes,
nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
Try to avoid close contact
with sick people.
If you are sick, you may be
ill for a week or longer. You should stay home and keep away from others as
much as possible.
Stay home for at
least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for
other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of
fever-reducing medicine.) Keep away from others as much as possible. This is
to keep from making others sick.
If you are sick and sharing
a common space with other household members in your home, wear a facemask,
if available and tolerable, to help prevent spreading the virus to others.
With seasonal flu, people
may be contagious from one day before they develop symptoms to up to 7 days
after they get sick. Children, especially younger children, might
potentially be contagious for longer periods.
If you are in a
high risk group for
complications from influenza, you should attempt to avoid close
contact (within 6 feet) with household members who are sick with influenza.
If close contact with a sick individual is unavoidable, consider wearing a
facemask or respirator, if available and tolerable. Infants and pregnant
women should not be cared for by sick family members.
Follow public health advice
regarding school closures, avoiding crowds, and other social distancing
Monitor yourself and household members for flu symptoms and contact a health
care provider if symptoms occur.