Swine Flu : An Important Zoonotic Disease
Dr Maria Abbas1 and Dr. Nazir Ahmed2
1JRF CWDB Project, SKUAST-K
2Junior Scientists, KVK- Kargil , SKUAST-Kashmir
The 20th century witnessed three major influenza pandemics, namely Spanish flu, Asian flu and Hong Kong flu in 1918, 1957 and 1968 respectively. All these three pandemics resulted in high mortality.In April 2009 a novel influenza (H1N1) virus of swine origin caused human infection in Mexico and spread tomany countries of the world. Swine flu is basically a misnomer. This was originally referred to a “swine flu”because laboratory testing showed that many of the genes in this new virus were very similar to those found in pigs in North America. Further it has been found that this new virus has gene segment from the swine, avian, human flu virus genes. Scientist call this virus a “quadruple reassortant” virus and hence this new novel virus is named as “influenza-A (H1N1) virus.” (Taubenberger JK and Morens DM. 1918).
Zoonoses are infections or diseasesthat can be transmitted directly or indirectly between animals and humans, by consuming contaminated foodstuffs such as milk, egg and meat products or through direct or indirect contact with infected animals (Saenz RA, et al., 2006). Research indicates that one third and one half of all human infectious diseases have a zoonotic origin. The severity of these diseases in humans varies from mild symptoms to life threatening conditions. Some important zoonotic diseases are rabies, influenza, brucellosis etc.
Mode of Transmission:
Influenza is quite common in pigs, the main rout of transmission is through direct contact between infected and un- infected animals (Kothalawala H.et al., 2006).People who work with poultry and swine during animal transport and intensive farming are at high risk of zoonotic infection with influenza. (Gray GC, Kayali G, 2009).Other professions at particular risk of infection are veterinarians and meat processing workers, although the risk of infection for both these groups is lower than that of farm worker (Myers KP,et al., 2006).
Signs and Symptoms:
In pigs, infection produces fever, lethargy, sneezing, coughing, difficulty in breathing, and decreases appetite, the virus results in weight loss in animal and poor growth, causing economic loss to farmers. However mortality is usually low
In humans, the symptoms of swine flu (H1N1) virus is similar to those of influenza like illness. In general symptoms include cough, fever, sore throat, body aches, headache, dehydration and fatigue (Kothalawala H.et al., 2006). These symptoms are not specific to swine flu; a differential diagnosis of probable swine flu requires not only symptoms, but also a high likelihood of swine flu due to the parsons resent history. A diagnosis of confirmed swine flu requires laboratory testing of a respiratory sample (a sample of nose and throat swab).
There are few simple and important majors which prevent the spreading of this diseases, such as covering of mouth and nose with handkerchief and tissue paper while coughing, washing hand often with soap and water especially after coughing and sneezing, stay at least an arm’s length from parsons coughing or sneezing, avoid gathering and wash your hand frequently, try to stay in good general health. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food, avoid touching nose, eyes and mouth and try to avoid close contact with people having respiratory illness and use of N-95 masks, If one gets sick with influenza, one must stay at home away from work or school, limit contact with others to keep from infecting them (Ramirez A,2006).
If a person becomes sick with swine flu, antiviral drugs can make the illness milder and make the patient feel better faster (Kothalawala H.et al., 2006).They may also prevent serious flu complications, for treatment antiviral drugs work best if started soon after getting sick with in two days of symptoms. Beside antiviral, supportive care at home or in a hospital focuses on controlling fever, relieving pain and maintaining fluid balance, as well as identifying and treating any secondary infection or any other medical problems. Use of oseltamivir or zanamivir for the treatment and prevention of infection with swine influenza viruses is recommended. The central council for research in homoeopathy (CCRH)has recommended that the medicine Arsenicum album could be taken as prophylactic medicine against flue like illness (WHO,2009)