By Dr Harsh Sharma, DHMS, BHMS
Published February 7, 2015, Last updated October 21, 2016
More than a dozen deaths have been reported of Swine Flu in the last couple of days in Chandigarh, Mohali, nearby areas of Punjab and Haryana. This seems to have caused a lot of panic among the people in these areas. Almost every patient asks about Swine Flu, how it is caused, its symptoms and its treatment.
What is Swine Flu
Swine Flu is a viral disease. It affects the respiratory system. It is caused by an influenza virus, particularly the H1N1 virus strain. In the recent past, more strains like the H1N2 and H3N2 have been discovered. In 2011, a new variant has been found. This is called the H3N2v.
It is also called pig flu. It is so called because originally this meant the influenza or the flu in pigs. Then the flu started getting transmitted to humans from pigs. Of late, the virus seems to have mutated and can cause an infection in humans even when they have had no contact with pigs.
The swine flu virus found in human beings is contagious. This means that the present virus is able to spread from one human being to another. In 2009, Swine Flu was reported from a lot of parts of the world. It started from Mexico and then spread to other areas. The WHO called it a pandemic.
Spread of Swine Flu
The swine flu spreads from one person to the other through inhalation of the contaminated droplets containing the virus. These droplets are released in the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs. Any person within a short distance of an infected person is therefore at a risk of catching the infection. This is more so in cases of medical workers and doctors who have to attend to such patients. The virus infects the mucous membranes of the nose, throat and lungs.
A person who is infected can spread the infection a day prior to showing symptoms himself. This period of contagion can last for a week after a person becomes sick. In children, this period can extend up to 10 days.
Symptoms of Swine Flu
The symptoms of swine flu resemble that of any other flu. Therefore it may be difficut to distinguish between a normal flu and a swine flu. One tends to have the following signs and symptoms-
- There is running nose or a cold. Watery discharge from the nose and eyes is seen
- Cough is present just like any other bout of flu.
- Fever is present and may be high.
- Sore throat also accompanies the other symptoms
- Generalised body aches like pain in the arms, legs or back is present
- Headache may also be present
- One may feel chilly even when the weather is not much cold
- In the 2009 pandemic, vomiting and diarrhoea were also reported by patients along with the symptoms of the respiratory system
- In some cases, it can cause pneumonia and respiratory failure
The symptoms last from one to two weeks and can last even longer in a severe infection. A secondary infection from bacteria can also occur and complicate the situation. In some cases, the infections may be so severe that they may be fatal.
Prevention of Swine Flu and the 6 feet rule
It is important that one should take care of some basic things to prevent catching an infection. Anyone infected with a flu should also take care that he or she takes some steps to avoid spreading the infection to others. As mentioned earlier, the virus enters the body through the nose and mouth. Therefore prevention of swine flu is centred on somehow preventing the entry of the virus into your nose and mouth.
- Stay at least 6 feet away from an infected person. Studies suggest that viruses do not spread for more than 4 feet when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Even then, a safer distance to maintain is 6 feet.
- Anyone who is infected or is having any flu should stay at home. Taking a couple of days off from work and staying at home will prevent the infection from spreading to others in the society. This is all the more important for school going children. Since the immunity of young children may not be fully developed, they are at a higher risk of catching infections even after the slightest exposure. Moreover kids tend to be more physical with each other and can spread the infection very easily.
- Washing one’s hands thoroughly with soap and not just water can be a big help. Every time one shakes hands with someone or touches something, a possibility of the infectious viruses sticking to your hands cannot be ruled out. The flu viruses may survive for hours on various articles like door handles or knobs. It therefore makes sense to wash your hands with soap and water. One can also use alcohol based hand sanitizers. This is all the more applicable for health workers, nurses and doctors.
- Avoid touching your nose and mouth as much as possible without washing your hands properly with soap and water. Avoid shaking hands with others.
- Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. One should use a handkerchief or a tissue and not let it come in contact with other family members. One can even use surgical masks to prevent the infection from spreading.
- Avoid crowds as much as possible. There is the possibility that one or the other person may be infected. So try to avoid crowds as much as possible.
- If a person in the family is down with flu, only one person in the family should take care of him or her.
Diagnosing Swine Flu
As mentioned earlier, the symptoms of swine flu are pretty similar to a normal flu. It is difficult to tell one from the other. Any contact with an infected person in the recent past can help diagnosing swine flu. In other cases, getting a lab test can be the only reliable method. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) assays can help diagnose Swine Flu.
Prognosis of Swine Flu
Despite the big scare that it has caused, the studies have shown that most people affected with Swine Flu recover easily. The symptoms may be severe at times but the recovery rate is good. It is only in some people who have a low immunity or are suffering from some other diseases or when secondary infections occur that the disease is life threatening.
Homeopathy for Swine Flu
By their very nature, viruses mutate very quickly. They change their form and nature quite soon. This is why the allopathic system of medicine has not been able to find any perfect cure for any viral infection. This is precisely why the vaccines available for swine flu are only partially effective and cannot be said to provide a complete shield against swine flu infections.
In contrast to allopathy, Homeopathy is very effective in treating all viral infections. This is because Homeopathy works by strengthening the immune system of the body. Once the immunity of the body is in fine fettle, it can take care of itself. Nature has provided humans a very good defence system. It is only when the immunity is weak, one is not able to defend oneself. Therefore, Homeopathic medicines help to repair and strengthen one’s immune system. The visible symptoms in each individual help in pointing to the medicine that may be required for each case.
Based on the symptoms of Swine Flu, Homeopathic medicines like Arsenic Album, Merc Sol, Gelsemium and Influenzinum are pretty effective in treating any such infection.
Therefore, take the necessary precautions as listed above, remember the 6 feet rule and don’t panic.