Monday, 23 February 2015

Swine Flu

(This is not a medical article but more about every day simple practices which all of us can do to avoid getting contaminated)

My daughter had severe diaorrhea a few days back and we visited a doctor for the same.  After running through a few tests he recommended me to get her tested for swine flu.  Why 'Swine flu?' i protested and added ' we dont eat pork!!'.  The Doctor gave me an disbelieving look and advised me to read up on Swine flu.  My short study revealed some startling facts and I wish to share them here:-

1. first and foremost -  why is it called swine flu - because initially only people who had contact with pigs had the infection.  subsequently new strains have emerged where people who had no contact also started getting infected.

2. Swine flu virus which was originally endemic to pigs is part of the family of flu viruses. The present known viruses are H1N1,H1N2, H2N1, H2N3, H3N1, H3N2 with the most (notoriously) famous being H1N1.

3. Chances of contracting the flu by eating pork are minimal to negligible.  They can't be ruled out 100% though. So it is better to stay off pork atleast for the time being.

4. Swine flu is contagious. when an infected person sneezes or coughs, he spreads tiny droplets of this virus into the air. When you come in contact with these droplets either in the air, or on a sink or a commode you get infected.

5.  The symptoms of swine flu are the same as that of flu which are cough, sore throat, fever, running nose, head ache, body aches, and chills with fever.

6.  Who are at max risk? - people who have low immunity - largely children below 5 years, adults above 60 years, people with chronic lung, pulmonary or liver infections or sleep deprived people etc.

What you can do if you have any of the symptoms

1.   Consult your doctor immediately
2.  He may recommend a swine flu test for you. It costs about Rs5000/- in India. Check for local Government/Municipal body approved rates in your area.  It may also be free in some Govt facilities. Pse check on those also.
3.  Buy a face mask for the patient to avoid the virus travelling by his coughing or sneezing. Change it regularly and dispose off the old one by burning.
4. Sanitise all the areas around the patient regularly with disinfectant and water.
5.   Keep the patient atleast for 10 days at home
6.   Give plenty of rest
7.  Give fluids ORS/Elecktral and water/juices regularly to avoid getting dehydrated.

What you can do to avoid getting contaminated
(It may not possible to follow some of these owing to your work committments or your life style or some other constraints, but it is still good to know these, so that you are better informed)

1.    Avoid cold and confined spaces (for example: air conditioned spaces) as they may not have suficient recirculation in case of the virus in the space.

2.    Avoid crowded areas(atleast temporarily).

3.   Wear a face mask and gloves where possible especially if you are travelling abroad.

4.   Limit Air travel where possible as Aircraft with their limited air circulation systems and travel between different cities, can be easy cariers of the virus.

5.   Take plenty of rest - atleast eight hours of sleep keeps the body fighting fit and you are more likely to ward off any infection in this state.

6.   Avoid Stress (easier said than done considering our life styles but make an effort to reduce atleast)

7.   Exercise (a brisk walk for 30 minutes would do) in open spaces preferable morning sun rise time.  Not only do the morning rays do wonders to your vitamin D levels but the exercise itself raises the fitness levels of the body in multiple ways.

8.  Have plenty of fruit juices especially of citrus fruits.  They naturally boost immunity and act against the flu virus.

9.  Avoid processed/junk foods especially pizza, burger and the likes as they lower your immunity to fight swine flu.  Wean your children off chips/kurkure etc (I am unsuccessful myself but I try every day)

10.   Add more turmeric and Tulsi to your diet.

11.   Avoid Public Toilets/Wash rooms to the extent possible.  

12.  Carry a good hand sanitiser and use it  when you come in contact with possible points of infection (door knobs, wash basins, commodes, railings etc ).  Both dettol and lifeboy have good hand sanitisers available in india costing about Rs 60/-

13.   Avoid anti biotics before the infection.  A school of thought suggests that having antibiotics prior to an infection may be detrimental but you may discuss it with your family doctor and take an informed decison. Remember it is caused by a virus and not bacteria.

14.  Similarly antacids suppress acids in the stomach and this suppression may lead to increased chances of pnuemonia.  As pnuemonia is a main cause of death in swine flu infection, usage of antacids may also be discussed with your family doctor.

I hope this article serves to clear the air in some minds like mine who were otherwise clueless about this infection.  Please take care and remain fit n fine.

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