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    Swine Flu: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment


    Swine flu is caused by the H1N1 influenza virus, a type A influenza virus which originated in pigs and started spreading in humans [1] . The first swine flu outbreak was in 2009, which became a pandemic, and ended in 2010.

    Nearly 575,400 people have died from swine flu worldwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    swine flu

    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 [2] .

    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[3] , [4] .

    Symptoms Of Swine Flu

    The symptoms of swine flu are similar to regular flu which include

    • Sore throat
    • Fever
    • Body aches
    • Runny nose
    • Chills
    • Headache
    • Fatigue
    • Diarrhoea
    • Nausea and vomiting

    Risk Factors For 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. Children under 5 years, pregnant women, adults and children with chronic blood, heart, lungs, liver, nervous system and metabolic problems, people in nursing homes and people with a weak immunity are prone to swine flu as well [5] .

    Diagnosis Of Swine Flu

    The doctor will take a test called the rapid influenza diagnostic test to get to know whether you have swine flu or not [6] .

    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 [7] .

    Treatment For Swine Flu

    A. Medication

    Antiviral drugs like oseltamivir, peramivir and zanamivir respond well to the disease. They shorten the duration of swine flu, lessen the symptoms and 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.

    swine flu treatment

    Oseltamivir is the most commonly prescribed antiviral drug that should be used within the first 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms. This drug is either taken orally as a pill or liquid suspension. All the other antiviral drugs should also be used within 48 hours [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.

    B. Natural remedies for swine flu

    1. Basil

    Basil, also known as Tulsi, is a medicinal plant. It has potent compounds such as ursolic acid, rosmarinic acid, eugenol, oleanolic acid, linalool, etc., that help in the prevention and treatment of swine flu [9] . Ayurvedic practitioners believe that basil or tulsi strengthens the immune system and improves the body's natural defence to fight against the virus.

    • Take 25 fresh basil leaves and make it into a paste or juice.
    • Consume it twice a day.

    2. Gooseberry or amla

    Indian gooseberry is rich in vitamin C that helps to boost the immune system and increases the body's resistance to flu viruses. The methanol extract of the fruit has an inhibitory effect against human immunodeficiency virus 1.

    • Consume fresh gooseberry in the form of juice or jam every day.

    3. Turmeric

    Turmeric contains an active compound called curcumin which helps to stabilize the body due to its strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral and antimicrobial properties [10] .

    • Add a pinch of turmeric to a glass of milk and drink it every night.

    4. Garlic

    Garlic has natural antibacterial, antiviral, antibiotic and immune-boosting properties that are useful in treating viral infections including the influenza virus [11] .

    • Swallow 2 garlic pods with warm water early morning on an empty stomach.

    5. Ginger

    Fresh ginger root contains zingerone, shogaols, gingerols, and volatile oils. The anti-influenza cytokine in ginger has an effect in inhibiting viral infections [12] .

    • Take ½ a ginger and add it in boiling water. 
    • Steep it for 10 minutes and drink the water daily.

    6. Aloe vera

    Aloe vera contains anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. Aloe polysaccharides (APS) extracted from aloe vera leaves have evident effects in inhibiting influenza A virus infection [13] .

    • Consume a teaspoon of aloe vera gel with water daily.

    7. Giloy

    Giloy is a herbal plant which has antiperiodic, antipyretic, diuretic, anti-inflammatory properties and active plant compounds that prevent swine flu infection.

    • Take one foot long branch of giloy and seven tulsi leaves.
    • Extract the juice from the leaves.
    • Boil the juice and drink it.

    8. Licorice

    Licorice contains glycyrrhizic acid, an antiviral compound and phenolic compounds such as flavonoids, glycosides, etc. Active compounds triterpine, saponins, particularly glycyrrhizic acid have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antiviral activities [14] .

    • Add a teaspoon of powdered licorice root to a glass of milk and drink it daily.

    9. Eucalyptus oil

    Eucalyptus oil shows antiviral effects when taken as a vapour. A study shows the effectiveness of this essential oil against influenza virus infection [15] .

    • Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil into lukewarm water and inhale the steam.

    10. Andrographis

    Andrographis has antifever, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and immunostimulatory properties. All these help to prevent influenza A virus infection [16] .

    11. Isatis

    Isatis is a medicinal plant which contains antibacterial, antiparasitic and antiviral agents which have the ability to fight against many different types of bacteria and viruses [17] .

    • Drink 10 ml of isatis juice twice a day.

    12. Green tea

    The presence of polyphenolic compounds and catechins in green tea make it one of the best beverages to consume for the prevention and treatment of swine flu. Catechins give out inhibitory effects for all six influenza subtypes and prevent the absorption of viruses on the red blood cells [18] .

    • Take a teaspoon of green tea leaves and add it to a pot of boiling water.
    • Allow it to steep for 3 minutes.
    • Strain the tea and drink it twice a day.

    13. Neem leaves

    The antiviral activity of azadirachtin, nimbin, and nimbidin in neem leaves can help in the prevention and treatment of influenza A virus (H5N1) [19] .

    • Extract the juice from 100 g of neem leaves and consume it.
    • Or add 100 g of neem leaves in boiling water.
    • Boil the water till it becomes half.
    • Strain the liquid and drink it.

    14. Ginseng

    Ginseng contains biological and immunomodulatory effects that have been shown to fight against H1N1 and H3N2 influenza virus [20] .

    • Consume ginseng tablets orally.

    Prevention Of Swine Flu

    Annual flu vaccination for everyone aged 6 months or older is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The flu vaccine is available as a nasal spray or an injection. The nasal spray is for ideal people who are not pregnant till 49 years of age, for children between 2 and 4 years old with asthma and wheezing, and for people who have a weak immune system.

    Here are some tips to prevent swine flu.

    • 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 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.
    View Article References
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    2. [2] Robinson, J. L., Lee, B. E., Patel, J., Bastien, N., Grimsrud, K., Seal, R. F., King, R., Marshall, F., … Li, Y. (2007). Swine influenza (H3N2) infection in a child and possible community transmission, Canada.Emerging Infectious Diseases,13(12), 1865-1870.
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