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Influenza

 

Introduction
Influenza H1N1 is a flu like illness. It spreads from human to human via secretions of nose and droplets from coughing. It  is  the same  illness which was earlier called  “ Swine Flu “. This does not occur by contact with pigs. So the earlier term “ Swine flu” is not used now. Since it’s a new virus almost all of us are not immune to this. So this novel influenza spreads very fast in a non immune society. It is more common among children and young adults.

Causative agents
It is an Influenza virus – A H1N1, H3N2
sub types and influenza B.

Pathogenesis/Actions in the body
Virus enters the human body through the respiratory system. It multiplies and attack the respiratory epithelium ( lining of the respiratory tract).

Symptoms and signs
Generally it  is a mild illness. The usual symptoms are fever, headache, body aches, sore throat, cough, runny nose and occasionally vomiting and diarrhea. It is like the usual common cold. So H1N1 influenza cannot be differentiated from any other influenza clinically.

Complications
Small percentage can develop Pneumonia. Then you may find it difficult to breathe, the illness will worsen with time with or without high fever. When severe people can die of pneumonia or myocarditis.
Rarely the illness can get severe in a few and such patients can develop pneumonia, fits, confusion or altered level of consciousness. You have to seek medical advice especially if high fever, increasing shortness of breath, altered consciousness, increasing severity of symptoms and debility.

There is high risk group who may get severe disease. They are extremes of age ( less than 2 years and above 65 years ), pregnant females, patients already suffering from chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma, kidney diseases, cancer, patients on long term prednisolone etc.

Management
Anti virals – Tami flu, oseltamivir  is used to treat severe disease and patients who fall in to high risk group

Prevention and promotion

  • Bed rest till symptoms subside. Stay at home.
  • Avoid crowds. It helps to prevent spread.
  • Take a good nutritious diet  and drink plenty of fluids
  • Advice and symptomatic management from your family physician may help. Special investigations or admission is not necessary for mild illness.
  • Wash hands regularly with soap and water.
  • Always use a handkerchief  or a tissue whenever you sneeze or cough. If using a tissue make sure you dispose it properly. If you do not have a hanky or a tissue you can use your elbow to cover whenever you sneeze. Don’t use your hand as it may spread the illness from wherever you touch.


 

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