[ Arti Tatin, Mitinam Jopir ]
Swine flu, also called pig influenza, is a disease of pigs that, in rare case can be passed to humans. It is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by one of many influenza A viruses (generally H1N1 subtype).
The disease is spread among pigs by nose to nose contact or direct contact of mucus. The virus is shed in nasal secretions and disseminated through droplets or aerosols. In human, the most common way to catch swine flu is through contact with an infected pig.
Swine flu occurs as a herd disease involving all the animals and occurs more frequently in winter. The incubation period is usually 1-3 days. Clinical signs of the disease are fever, anorexia rhinitis, nasal discharge, sneezing and rapid breathing. The animals do not move freely but tend to huddle together. Recovery usually takes place after 3 to 6 days. The symptoms of swine flu in human are quite similar to that of regular or seasonal flu which include body aches, chills, cough, headache, sore throat, fever and tiredness. Less commonly, a person with swine flu may experience vomiting and diarrhoea.
Swine flu is mostly diagnosed through noting the symptoms. However, in a similar way to seasonal flu, symptoms are often mild and self-resolve.
Most people do not receive a test for swine flu as treatment would be the same, regardless of the outcome. Since, there is no single known cure, steps can be taken at home to prevent swine flu and reduce symptoms if a person does not contract the virus, which include washing hands regularly with soap, getting plenty of sleep, exercising often, managing stress, drinking liquids and eating a balanced diet. In order to reduce spread of infections various preventive measures, such as limiting contact with other people, covering of mouth and nose while sneezing or coughing is necessary.
Although swine flu/ influenza is a zoonotic disease, its magnitude and significance in relation to public health is still to be determined. Nevertheless, the virus constitutes a potential risk to those who are likely to be in close contact with pigs, especially pig handlers, workers and veterinarians.
Public health authorities and physicians handling case of undiagnosed respiratory diseases (especially those persons who are in close association with pigs) need to consider the possibility of swine influenza virus as a possible cause.
Also, contraction of swine flu infection in human by consuming of pork meat or pork food product is basically a myth.
If pork meat or its food product are handled properly and cooked at a temperature of 70 degree C, the transmission of swine influenza is not possible. Thus “swine flu” can be concluded as a sporadic disease which basically can be overcome by following various preventive measures, for the betterment of public health with the motto: Prevention is better than cure.
(The contributors are from the College of Vety Sciences & AH Central Agricultural University, Aizawl, Mizoram)
[ Arti Tatin, Mitinam Jopir ]