SYMPTOMS OF H1N1 aka Swine Flu
Swine flu is a seasonal subtype of influenza A virus commonly occurring during the winter months. Although most animal virus can’t be transmitted to humans, H1N1 virus is particularly dangerous since it has the ability to do so. Cases of swine flu being transmitted to humans occur in pig farms through pig farmers not wearing protective gear such as gloves and masks while treating animals with swine flu. A person to person transmission is called H1N1 virus infection.
The 2009 H1N1 pandemic is not zoonotic swine flu (the virus transmitted from animal to human) because it was transmitted from person to person. To distinguish common animal swine flu from human swine flu, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) calls it influenza H1N1 or H1N1 influenza.
H1N1 virus claimed over tens of thousands of lives during the 2009 pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared H1N1 influenza a pandemic because of its occurrence in many parts of the world. Contagious as it is, the virus can be spread rapidly from one person to another through H1N1 or swine flu symptoms very similar to ordinary influenza viruses like sneezing, coughing and / or touching body parts such as mouth, eyes and nose through hands that were in contact with a H1N1 infected person’s sneezing or coughing discharge on a contaminated surface. It takes two to eight hours for the virus discharge to be actively transferrable and contagious.
Unlike the common type of influenza, swine flu or H1N1 is a mix of four influenza virus strains. This make the virus dangerous and even deadly when not treated properly. H1N1 or swine flu symptoms are like any other flu-like symptoms. However, diagnosis for H1N1 infection becomes non-conclusive without further testing because of these common symptoms.
Based on the report by the CDC, H1N1 symptoms include high fever, sneezing, coughing, sore throat, severe headaches, muscle pains or body aches, congestion, chills, weakness and fatigue. There are some people infected with H1N1 virus that exhibits symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting, which are uncommon to influenza patients. The 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak reported a high percentage of people infected with the virus having diarrhea and vomiting with the regular flu-like symptoms.
The symptoms also differ from person to person. There are some H1N1 infected people with respiratory symptoms but has no fevers or chills. Others exhibit mild H1N1 or swine flu symptoms and others severe.
H1N1 related deaths are due to complications on patients with other existing medical conditions like respiratory diseases or kidney diseases. Nevertheless, the most likely to be infected with H1N1 virus are pregnant women, children (five years old and under), elderly people (sixty-five years and older) and any other person with chronic medical conditions.
Swine flu or H1N1-related complications such as bronchitis, pneumonia, sinus infections and ear infections may result to a patient’s hospitalization and can cause death. The H1N1 virus can also make chronic medical conditions worse. It may trigger severe complications to a patient with chronic heart disease. Asthmatic people may experience asthma attacks while infected with H1N1 virus.
There are also some emergency warning signs exhibited by people infected with H1N1 virus. Immediate medical care must be given to avoid sudden death. The most common cause of death among H1N1 infected patients are respiratory failure, kidney failure, pneumonia that can lead to sepsis (an inflammatory state of the body because of infection), dehydration (because of excessive diarrhea and vomiting), high fever that leads to neurological complications and water-electrolyte imbalance that can lead to renal failure.
Children infected with H1N1 may experience fast breathing or sometimes troubled, inconsistent breathing patterns. They also have grayish or bluish skin tone and rashes with the fever. Children suffering from H1N1 virus infection can also get dehydrated because they can’t drink enough fluids and retain it in their bodies due to frequent vomiting or diarrhea. The virus also makes children lethargic and has trouble staying conscious, preferring to sleep and not interact because of weakness or fatigue. Children can also suffer from water-electrolyte imbalance due to excessive vomiting and diarrhea. Sometimes, the symptoms may pass and then would rebound. This time, it is worse than before. These swine flu or H1N1 symptoms coming back usually create complications and death.
For adults suffering from H1N1 virus infection, they may experience the same inconsistent breathing patterns like the children. Sometimes they breathe fast, and sometimes have shortness of breath. There is also an insistent pain or pressure in the chest and/or abdominal area. The infected adults can also become disoriented and confused or dizzy. Adult patients can likely become dehydrated because they can’t retain the fluids they intake due to persistent vomiting and diarrhea – two of the common H1N1 symptoms. Patients will also experience water-electrolyte imbalance that might eventually lead to renal failure because levels of sodium, calcium and potassium will have abnormalities. Just like with children, H1N1 virus infected adults may have flu-like symptoms pass for awhile and will come back and become worse than before.
Pregnant women are at high risk when infected with H1N1 virus. More severely affected and likely to be hospitalized, the virus can cause death.
The CDC has reported that people can still have influenza H1N1 without having these flu-like symptoms. Diarrhea and vomiting can only be indicators but remains non-conclusive. So, how can we detect if we are experiencing a bad case of just a regular, seasonal flu or influenza H1N1?
Influenza H1N1 detection is possible through further testing and not just through common physical examination. Since H1N1 symptoms duplicates that of ordinary influenza symptoms with the exception of vomiting and diarrhea, further analysis of the patient’s condition must be taken into consideration.
These symptoms can be varied and unreliable as to whether it can be automatically diagnosed as swine flu or influenza H1N1 at first glance. The CDC suggests that physicians consider the patient’s medical history and recommends to test the possible H1N1 infected patients through RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction) method in real-time.
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