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H1N1 Virus / Swine Flu – Discuss

Swine flu is an infection caused by swine influenza virus. Swine influenza virus is common throughout among the pig population worldwide. It infects the respiratory tract of the pigs. Transmission of virus from pigs to humans is not common. Usually, the virus spreads among pigs only. Transmission of the virus from pigs to human not always causes human flu, but if it causes it is called zoonotic swine flu. People who are in regular contact with pigs are most vulnerable for this infection.

Swine flu has been declared pandemic by WHO as it has caused millions of deaths worldwide. Swine influenza was first proposed to be a disease related to human during 1918 pandemic. The first identification of an influenza virus as a cause of disease in pigs occurred after about 10 years in 1930.

Swine flu is highly contagious. It spreads quickly from one person to another through air, mucus and saliva particles. The spread of virus is temperature dependent. The number of cases of people getting infected by this virus increases during the winter season. People who are at most risk include children below 3 years, pregnant women, people with certain medical conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, asthma, diabetes etc., or the people with weak immune system.

Early symptoms include cough, fever, headache, sore throat, muscle pain, chills, vomiting or diarrhea. Swine flu can be diagnosed only through test in a specialized laboratory.

In India, the most recent outbreaks caused by Swine flu occurred in 2009 and in last months of 2014 which is still going on. Around 2,000 people have died and more 20,000 have been reported to be infected in 2015 alone. It was declared epidemic by Rajasthan government in 2014.

Both of these outbreaks were caused by H1N1 virus. The only known drug to work against H1N1 virus is Tamiflu. In 2009, Tamiflu was not sold in general medical stores as the government feared that people may consume it without any reason thereby making virus resistant to only known cure. The generic version of Tamiflu has also been launched in the market. A bio-technology firm had made an indigenous developed swine flu vaccine under the brand name HNVAC.

In Delhi, where the toll of infected people were high, the Delhi government fixed the price of flu diagnostic tests and the labs charging more than that were issued show cause notice asked them why there licenses should not be cancelled. In February, the district magistrate of Ahmedabad Gujarat banned assembling of people so as to prevent spread of the disease. The health ministry of India has given special attention to supply of the drug Tamiflu, N-95 masks and diagnostic kits. Care has been taken by the government to prevent spread of the disease. Surveillance has been put at airports to identify infected people coming from other countries. The state government has also played their role by checking people coming from infected zones. By better awareness and by developed health system, Delhi and Tamil Nadu government was able to reduce the death toll whereas the number of infected were high in these two states.

As it is well said "Prevention is better than cure". There are some steps by following which we can prevent spread of this disease. Vaccination to provide immunity against this disease has proved ineffective because of the evolution of the virus which gets immunized to these vaccines. Focus should be given on prevention of transmission of virus from pigs to humans. The chance of transmission of virus is highest among the farmers of swine farms. The swine farmers should use hand gloves and masks while in contact with pigs. These viruses get transferred when farmers after touching infected pigs touch their eyes, nose or mouth. The infected pigs should be vaccinated and quarantined.

To prevent human to human transmission, the infected person should be quarantined. Influenza spreads between people when infected person sneezes and the nearby people inhale the air or touch something with virus on it and then touch their face. Frequent washing of hands after being out in public, with water or alcohol based sanitizer helps in controlling infection.

The Indian government should give top priority to the development of indigenous drugs, masks and diagnosis kits. The treatment of swine flu should be subsidized so that poor people can afford the treatment. The government should keep an eye on private laboratories to prevent them from taking exorbitant amount from the patients. Modern laboratories should be set up in every part of the country, so that the infected person will get treatment as early as possible and it will also help in controlling spread of infection. The war against Swine flu can be won only by the united efforts of all the countries. If any country is not equipped with modern facilities and there is shortage of drugs, then other countries must take responsibility to provide the necessary drugs and equipment.

Suman Kumar