H1N1 Virus

H1N1 Virus.
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The H1N1 is defined as a flu-like disease testing positive for the Influenza virus A H1N1 (swine influenza)

What is H1N1? ^

H1N1 is an illness where the person has a normal cough and cold like illness. It spreads very fast and is contagious.

Swine Flu ^

The A H1N1 pandemic which suddenly came up in the year 2009 is also called as “swine flu” because the influenza virus in this outbreak microscopically looked very similar to those causing the swine influenza. Normally the swine influenza attacks pigs and this disease can occur throughout the seasons of the year but usually more outbreaks are seen in winter months.

H1N1 Pandemic ^

The 2009 outbreak of H1N1 (H1N1 pandemic) had led to the discovery of a new strain of influenza. This strain is very similar to the swine influenza seen in pigs. In this outbreak, not only was the individual case often severe, but the outbreak of influenza spread to epidemic proportions in whole population groups, closing factories, schools, and hospitals in its wake. There were thousands of cases and deaths during this pandemic within a short span of time (two months) This had inspired several pharmaceutical manufacturers to develop a specific vaccine that can alter the DNA structure of this virus and to control this disease.

Till today there have been 31 severe pandemics. The most devastating one was that in 1918; There were 20 million people reported to have died around the globe because of influenza. Influenza virus is not the sole cause of death. But if the affected person has a history of weakened organs due to some past chronic disease then the chances of death are high.

H1N1 Virus ^

This is a disease caused by the family of Orthomyxo-RNA viruses which usually resides in the flocks (Avian Flu) and poultry animals. There are mainly three types of influenza viruses, type A, type B and type C.  Influenza type A virus affects humans and can be dangerous, the type B causes mild disease and type C is usually rare in humans. The type A has “subunits” which can be the H (hemagglutinin) and N (neuraminidase) Further, the H has 3 types of strains 1, 2 and 3 and the N has two types 1 and 2. The H, latches onto the cell whereas the N, helps the virus to get inside of the cell.

The best known member of the group that can cause influenza is the H1N1 virus. This causative agent had rapidly killed several individuals in Asia and Europe. The World Health Organization had declared this incident as a form of pandemic case because the outbreak of swine flu had penetrated the different countries across these continents such as Europe, North and South America, Africa, and Asia.

There are reported cases of flu virus that affected and killed people living in Oceania continent. There are several strains of flu viruses that are found to be the main culprit of this disease. Among these are the AH1N1, AH1N2, AH3N1, AH3N2, AH2N1 and now the recent AH7N9 outbreak. Furthermore, there are possibilities that these strains may evolve and will produce into severe and hybrid agents that can cause critical respiratory illnesses to the people.

H1N1 Symptoms ^

The clinical manifestations of h1n1 disease mimic the signs and symptoms of common colds. These include nasal discharges, sneezing, coughing, and flaring of nares, nasal congestion that can alter the breathing pattern, shortness of breath, fever, and possible infection to the upper and lower respiratory system.

H1N1 Treatment ^

The treatment modalities for this are mainly curative and supportive. Once acquired, there is no definite treatment for influenza, but the body’s defense mechanism (immune system) is usually capable of destroying the virus if given the necessary time and if the defenses are not depressed by other illnesses. Antiviral drugs are available but most recover without medication.

  1. Oral fluids: Increase of fluid intake is very important for hydrating the body from the threat of the flu virus.
  2. Using of aspirin to address the rising body temperature and possible pain reliever.
  3. Bed rest is required because it boosts the capabilities of the immune system to counteract the effect of the flu viruses.(This will also help relieve other clinical manifestations of swine flu)

Special attention should be paid to sudden worsening of fever (monitor for seven days) In elderly people, more intensive medical care is often necessary, including hospitalization for some severe cases.

H1N1 Vaccination ^

Inoculation is fairly effective in preventing swine flu, but is not long lasting and has to be renewed each year. Unfortunately, there are several different types of influenza virus, and a slightly different vaccine is needed to provide immunity or resistance against h1n1 virus.

Vaccines are available which are monovalent or trivalent.

  1. Monovalent – H1N1, 2009 strain (live/attenuated)
  2. Trivalent – H1N1, H3N2 and type B Influenza (live/attenuated)

They are given in a single or in two doses. They are administered as a spray into the nose. The trivalent is desired over the monovalent.

Each recent epidemic in the United States has been the result of a different strains and although there have been several months’ warning before the epidemics starts, it has been difficult to mass produce the vaccine in time to use it before the epidemic.

H1N1 Prevention ^

The preventive measures used for this H1N1 involve:

  1. Good personal hygiene and proper washing of hands with soap and water.
  2. Avoid any contact, if there are suspected (infected) persons.
  3. Covering mouth by a cloth or a mask in risky areas.
  4. Taking nutritional foods that can enrich the functions of immune system (will reduce the chance of developing influenza)
  5. Availing of vaccines can provide a year round protection against the dilemma of this virus.
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