Sure enough, everyone has heard about the H1N1 virus, but how does one define it? It’s a pandemic, respiratory disease known to affect pigs, birds, and people. It often results in nasal secretions, coughing, loss of appetite amongst all other flu-like symptoms. H1N1 is like the flu, but even more severe, affecting mostly children under the age of five.
Why is H1N1 called the “Swine Flu”? This virus was discovered as early as 1930 on farms throughout the US. It’s an influenza virus that passes from one pig to another and most any person that handles these animals. The swine flu was detected by pork producers, veterinarians, and other commercial experts that came in contact with them. In April of 2009, the H1N1 virus was found to spread from one person to another in countries as Canada and Mexico.
How did H1N1 get this name? Investigators found that it primarily affects people and contains two substances that are foreign to the human body, causing reactions to the immune system. “H1” means the hemagglutinin type and “N1” means the neuraminidase type. These are terms representing antigens as bacteria, viruses, or other contaminants causing influenza type symptoms.
How H1N1 Spreads
Many believe H1N1 is spread by foods, especially pork products, or water. Recent laboratory tests prove this is not true. All food is safe as well as tap water disinfected through conventional processes.
H1N1 spreads in the same way a regular cold or flu spreads, through the air or by physical contact. Anytime someone infected coughs or sneezes, that person sends tiny particles through the air from their nose, throat, or lungs. Anyone breathing these antigens in is prone to developing the H1N1 virus. Being in a crowd will increase one’s likelihood of catching it. Most any type of environmental surface can spread it in two to eight hours after the contaminating agent has been deposited onto it. Someone touching the tainted surface then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth is highly likely to transmit the virus to themselves.
The Symptoms of H1N1
In adults, H1N1 will affect one’s respiratory system resulting in coughing, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, a sore throat, a runny nose, or abdominal or chest pain. Other effects are pain in the muscles or joints, fatigue, chills, abrupt dizziness or confusion, and headaches. Symptoms that affect children to a high degree are blue or gray lips or skin, dehydration, seizures, excessive sleeping, rapid breathing, or becoming irritable when being held in the arms of a parent. Both children and adults may experience diarrhea, severe or persistent vomiting, or fevers.
Anyone who feels they may have the H1N1 virus must see their family physician. Only a medical expert can determine whether one has the virus or just has the flu. A doctor will need to take a blood sample, a nasopharyngeal test (nose to mouth), and a throat swab from the patient and send it to a medical lab for further testing.
Common Remedies for H1N1
Remedies for the H1N1 are similar to the regular flu. Aspirin works well to kill pain and aid fevers but is not recommended for children or teenagers. Over-the-counter medications help ease the symptoms but do not kill the virus. Two antiviral drugs are recommended for those who’ve become severely ill: Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and Zanamivir (Relenza). Both are highly effective since they disable an enzyme needed to help the virus grow and spread.
Meanwhile, the H1N1 virus can be treated by drinking plenty of fluids, getting plenty of sleep, and eating soup to help minimize congestion. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables will ensure a faster recovery.