Knowing H1N1

As H1N1 is emerging as the new cause of concern in Kashmir, Dr Rabbanie Tariq Wani offers a quick guide to the causes and basics of its management. The disease is treatable after its timely detection and treatment 

Atal Dulloo reviews preparedness for combating H1N1 Influenza

H1N1 influenza (flu) virus caused a worldwide pandemic in 2009, but now 2015 is the first season since 2009 that H1N1 has been so predominant in India.

Most experts believe that you get the flu when a person with the flu coughs, sneezes, or talks and droplets containing their germs land in your mouth or nose. You can also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching your mouth, eyes, or nose. Some groups are more likely to experience complications from the seasonal flu, including seniors (those age 65 years and older), children (especially those younger than 2 years), people with chronic health conditions.

H1N1 Flu symptoms include:

A 100oF or higher fever or feeling feverish

A cough and/or sore throat

A runny or stuffy nose

Headaches and/or body aches

Chills

Fatigue

Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea (most common in children).

It can be difficult to tell the difference between flu and common cold. Your health care provider can give you a test within the first few days of your illness to determine whether or not you have the flu. In general, the flu is worse than the common cold. Symptoms such as fever, body aches, tiredness, and cough are more common and intense with the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Most people who get the flu feel much better within one or two weeks. Most healthy adults can infect others one day before symptoms develop and five to seven days after symptoms appear. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be contagious for a longer period.

Steps you can take in your daily life to help protect you from getting the flu.

Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub for at least 20seconds.

Dry with a disposable towel.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way

Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

Practice good health habits.

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands

If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.

Maintaining a social distance of more than 1 metre as the droplets hardly travel more than 1metre.

Avoid hugging, kissing and shaking hands when greeting.

You may be asked to put on a facemask (preferably N95 respirator or triple-layered mask) to protect others as well as yourself.

The influenza vaccine is the best protection against the flu this season. If you get the flu vaccine, you are 60% less likely to need treatment for the flu by a healthcare provider. Getting the vaccine has been shown to offer substantial other benefits including reducing illness, antibiotic use, time lost from work, hospitalizations, and deaths. The flu vaccine will protect you for one flu season. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection. In the meantime, you are still at risk of getting the flu. That’s why it’s better to get vaccinated early in the fall before the flu season really gets underway.

If you are healthy but exposed to a person with the flu, antiviral drugs can prevent you from getting sick. They are approved for adults and children one year and older. There are four antiviral drugs approved for treating the flu -oseltamivir (Tamiflu) is one among them. The sooner you are treated with an antiviral, the more likely it will prevent the flu. Antiviral drugs are 70% to 90% effective at preventing the flu. Talk to your health care provider if you think you need antiviral drugs. Please do not take antiviral medications without consultation of a doctor as it can lead to resistance of virus due to mutations.

(Dr Wani is working in the Department of Community Medicine Government Medical College Srinagar Kashmir)

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