Also known as H1N1 influenza, swine flu was recognized as a flu pandemic in 2009 - 2010. It is called H1N1 because of its causal agent which is the H1N1 strain of virus. If we consider the name 'swine flu', then technically, it refers to a case of influenza in pigs. And in less common cases, the infection is passed on to people who are involved in rearing these animals, and treating them, such as vets. It is also rare for someone like them to pass the infection to others. Contrary to what most people believe, eating pork does not cause the infection.
The virus spreads from an infected person to another through coughing or sneezing. During such acts, the tiny droplets that come out of the nose and mouth of the infected person, contain the H1N1 virus. And these droplets can spread to others in the radius of one meter, and for a while, they can also remain suspended in the air, before falling on various surfaces. Outside the body, the pathogen has the ability to survive for up to a day (24 hours). So when someone inhales the contaminated droplets, he/she presents a direct route to the pathogen to make it into the body, thus triggering an infection. Also, touching any contaminated surface, and then touching the eyes, nose or mouth or your hand, also causes the infection.
Recovery Period of Swine Flu
After a person contracts the infection, he/she starts showing the symptoms within 2 - 7 days, as it is in the case of other forms of flu. Swine flu does not require any treatment, as it resolves on its own. However, medications for relieving the symptoms such as sore throat, cough, headache, chills, diarrhea, vomiting, and fatigue, can be administered. After the symptoms show up, the flu usually lasts for about 7 days. This might be even lesser for people who otherwise, have a healthy immune system. However, in people with a compromised immune system such as those suffering from chronic illness like AIDS, asthma, heart diseases, or disorders of the kidneys or blood, the flu may last longer. Even people who are hospitalized, those over 65 years of age, or those having breathing problems, may have a delayed recovery from this flu. What the flu does is, it worsens the medical conditions which are already present in the infected person. Also, in kids the flu stays longer than usual.
Antivirals such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) may be administered. However, there always lurks a chance for the swine flu virus to develop a resistance against these medications. So, in order to reduce the chances of resistance, people who are the most susceptible to develop severe complications, are treated with the antivirals. These drugs work best when started within two days of symptoms. It must be known that these antivirals do not cure the infection, but help in speeding up the recovery time, relieving some symptoms, or more importantly, in reducing the chances of serious complications such as pneumonia, failure of the respiratory system, and as mentioned, worsening of medical conditions the patient is already suffering from.
Following a few self-care measures at home, as described below, may also reduce the duration of the infection:
- For all kinds of flu, rest is the best method to help the body fight the infection. That is why patients are advised to get more sleep, especially in the case of infants and kids
- Increasing the intake of fluids is also necessary to fight off an infection. Besides water, home-made fruit juices, broths and warm soups help in preventing dehydration, and flushing out toxins from the body
- Over-the-counter pain relievers are also helpful in managing some of the symptoms. However, when it comes to children, caution must be exercised with the kind of medication intended to be used
The duration of the swine flu is not a subject of concern for people who are otherwise healthy. However, this infection is most likely to cause severe complications in those who are already stricken with some kind of chronic medical condition. And that is why, for such people, treatment is more necessary for keeping their condition from worsening.