The H1N1 virus, more commonly known as swine flu is now in its post-pandemic period. The flu, however, continues to circulate as a seasonal virus in several countries, including India. In Tamil Nadu, in 2017 alone, 9 people have died and over 1000 affected by the virus.
The Department for Public Health and Preventive Medicine has issued an advisory on its website, answering several questions on the flu. While the virus will reportedly abate in the next two weeks, a need has risen to make all information and precautions to be taken, easily available to the public.
According to the State Government's website, the symptoms of swine flu are very similar to the regular flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headaches, chills and fatigues. Diarrhoea and vomiting has also been associated with the swine flu. So why must one take more precaution?
This is because, the health department says, severe illnesses such as pneumonia and respiratory failure have been reported with swine flu infection in people. In addition to this, the swine flu may reportedly cause the worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.
According to a CNN report published in 2009, if unchecked, the virus reportedly penetrates deep into the lungs and causes damage. "It starts off from affecting the lymph nodes and then passes on," says Dr Senthil Sengodan, professor of surgery in the Perundurai Medical College for the last 18 years.
"A throat swab and a blood test are required to identify the H1N1 virus," says Dr Bafna, who has been practicing medicine for over 40 years now. "The symptoms are regular to the common flu and should not be overlooked in this season," he adds.
The flu predominantly spreads from contact with someone who is infected. According to the government website even touching something held by an infected person and then keeping your hand near your mouth or nose could spread the virus.
K Kolandaswamy, Director of the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine advises people to, "cough or sneeze into a handkerchief, to keep washing their hands and to rush to a doctor if they catch a fever or experience throat pain."
In addition to this, the Health Department advises you to drink plenty of fluids, eat nutritious food, avoid contact with people who are ill and to not touch their belongings.
The WHO, meanwhile, advises that there is still public health value in using the monvalent H1N1 vaccine if available. It could reportedly immunise persons at risk of several diseases from the infection.
However, the state’s website fails to mention the vaccination. DPH’s Kolandaswamy explains, “The message on the website is incorrect. A vaccine exists to tackle the virus but we do not recommend it. This is because the nature of the virus keeps changing. Only high risk groups such as health workers are told to take the shot."