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Swine Flu: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Swine flu, also known as the H1N1 virus is a type A influenza virus that originates in pigs and pass on to humans. The swine flu outbreak was reported in 2009 and according to statistics, nearly 575,400 people have died from swine flu worldwide. Swine flu is a highly contagious respiratory disease which spreads quickly from person to person. Though H1N1 influenza subtype is the most common, since 2017 the H3N2 subtype has also been reported [1] .

The WHO declared the H1N1 pandemic over in August 2010 and has been regarded as a regular human flu virus since then. Similar to the other strain of flu, swine flu is highly contagious and therefore quickly spreads from one person to the other [2] . The H1N1 virus can linger on surfaces of tables, beds and other areas, increasing one's chances of contracting the virus.

Symptoms Of Swine Flu

Similar to that of regular influenza, the symptoms of this condition are as follows [3] :

  • Nausea
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Chills
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Tiredness

Causes Of Swine Flu

Swine flu is caused by an influenza virus strain that usually affects pigs. The disease is spread either by coming in contact with infected pigs or coming in contact with an infected person's bodily fluids through sneezing, coughing or by touching a surface that has been contaminated and then touching your nose, eyes or mouth [4] .

It is to be noted that, you can't catch swine flu from eating properly cooked (70°C) pork products [5] .

Risk Factors Of Swine Flu

According to the CDC, around 80 per cent of H1N1 deaths occur in people under the age of 65 and around 70 per cent to 90 per cent deaths occur in people who are above 65 years and older [6] . People in nursing homes are also prone to the risk of swine flu.

Some people are more at risk of catching swine flu than others, and they are as follows;

  • People aged over 65 years
  • Pregnant women
  • Children under 5 years
  • People with chronic diseases (asthma, heart disease, diabetes mellitus, or neuromuscular disease)
  • Individuals with a compromised immune system
  • Teenagers (young adults and children under the age of 19) receiving long-term aspirin therapy

Diagnosis Of Swine Flu

The condition is diagnosed through the symptoms.

The doctor will take a test called the rapid influenza diagnostic test to get to know whether you have swine flu or not [7] . Another diagnostic test is done by sampling fluid from the body which is done by taking a swab from your nose or throat within the first four to five days of the disease. To identify the specific type of virus, the swab will be examined using various genetic and laboratory techniques.

If the symptoms are minor, there is a low chance that any connection to swine influenza will be found during the diagnosis, even if the virus is present in your system [8] .

Consequently, there are three categories of swine flu virus - A, B and C. Of the three, the C category is considered a serious one and this requires immediate ventilator support [7] .

Treatment For Swine Flu


Antiviral drugs such as oseltamivir, peramivir and zanamivir respond well to the disease. They shorten the duration of swine flu, lessen the symptoms and help reduce the risk of exposure. However, these medications do not cure the disease and are usually for people who are at a higher risk of complication because the flu virus can develop resistance to the medicines; making it ineffective in a long run [8] .

Antibiotics don't work for swine flu as the flu is caused by a virus and not bacteria. Over-the-counter pain medicines can help subside flu symptoms like body ache, fever and pain [9] .

Prevention Of Swine Flu

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, everyone aged 6 months or older should get the annual flu vaccination done. The flu vaccine is available in the form of injection and nasal sprays. The nasal sprays are ideal for people who are not pregnant, children between 2 and 4 years old with asthma and wheezing and for people who have a weak immune system [10] .

Here are some steps you can adapt to prevent the onset of the flu [11] :

  • Avoid close contact with pigs and take protective measures if you come in close contact with a pig.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth or tissue paper while sneezing or coughing.
  • Wear a face mask while outdoors.
  • Stay away from crowds during the flu season.
  • Don't touch your mouth, eyes or nose with contaminated hands.
  • Get plenty of rest because it will help improve your immune system.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Drink plenty of water and other liquids to prevent dehydration.
View Article References
  1. [1] Schmidt, S. (2015). Seasonal, bird and swine flu explained: colds and flu.SA Pharmacist's Assistant,15(2), 4-5.
  2. [2] Mohan, H., Gill, P. S., & Kumar, A. (2019). Hemagglutinin gene based biosensor for early detection of swine flu (H1N1) infection in human.International journal of biological macromolecules,130, 720-726.
  3. [3] Vilanova, E., Tovar, A. M., & Mourão, P. A. (2019). Imminent risk of a global shortage of heparin caused by the African Swine Fever afflicting the Chinese pig herd.Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis,17(2), 254-256.
  4. [4] Klemm, C., Das, E., & Hartmann, T. (2016). Swine flu and hype: a systematic review of media dramatization of the H1N1 influenza pandemic.Journal of Risk Research,19(1), 1-20.
  5. [5] Shukla, R., & Omray, L. K. (2017). AN UPDATE ON “SWINE FLU” INFLUENZA H1N1 VIRUS.
  6. [6] Phadtare, D., & Kulkarni, R. (2016). Swine Flu and the Role Pharmacist to Prevent it.Research journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacodynamics,8(2), 86.
  7. [7] Yadav, S., & Rawal, G. (2015). Swine flu-have we learnt any lesson from the past?.Pan African Medical Journal,22(1).
  8. [8] Wang, L. B., Chen, Q. Y., Wu, X. M., Che, Y. L., Wang, C. Y., Chen, R. J., & Zhou, L. J. (2018). Isolation of a reassortant H1N2 swine Flu strain of type “Swine-Human-Avian” and its genetic variability analysis.BioMed research international,2018.
  9. [9] Jilani, T. N., & Siddiqui, A. H. (2018). H1N1 Influenza (Swine Flu). InStatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing.
  10. [10] Mishra, A., Sachdeva, H. C., Malik, S., & Kumari, A. (2018). Outcome of Critical Pregnant and Postpartum Patients of Swine flu-Experience of Seven Years.Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research,12(1).
  11. [11] Phadtare, D., & Kulkarni, R. (2016). Swine Flu and the Role Pharmacist to Prevent it.Research journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacodynamics,8(2), 86.
Story first published: Monday, June 17, 2019, 17:32 [IST]
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