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H1N1 Flu as a Major Threat for Human Health

Introduction

The recent outbreak of H1N1 began on April 13 2009 in Mexico when a new strain of H1N1 influenza A was reported. Within a short period of time, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a pandemic alert that changed from level 3 to level 6. Until the first week of August this year, WHO noted 1, 77,457 laboratory-confirmed cases and 1462 deaths due to H1N1. Further, WHO also confirmed that 168 countries and about 2 billion people may be infected by the pandemic (nias.res.in, 2009).

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Today H1N1 Flu has become a major threat and has a serious impact on the travel and hospitality industry. H1N1 flu is also called the Swine Flu which is caused by a virus. In general, swine flu is a respiratory disease seen in pigs. It is caused by type A influenza that often causes outbreaks of influenza in pigs. Except for sporadic human infection, swine flu is not known to cause problems in humans. H1N1 influenza A virus is another type of influenza virus A. Researchers have found that it is only certain strains of H1N1 that are prevalent in humans and are the reason for causing influenza-like illness. However, these are known to cause all seasonal influenza. For instance, it is reported that H1N1 strains effectuated about 50 percent of all human flu infections in the year 2006 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009). There are also strains of H1N1 that cause avian influenza.

The nomenclature of the flu strains came from the H and N proteins that are also called the hemagglutinin and neuraminidase. These proteins adhere to the outer surface of the virus-like spikes that aid to pass on a disease and damage cells and are easily recognized by the immune system (Federation of American Scientists, 2008). Influenza A virus strains have different designations as an H number and an N number. It is based on the different forms of these two proteins the strain can be differentiated. For instance, there are sixteen H and nine N types known to cause infection in avian. On the other hand, only H 1, 2 and 3, and N 1 and 2 are symptomatically found in humans (Lynch and Walsh, 2007).

In general, it is observed that swine flu occurs in people who are directly exposed to pigs. Further, there are few instances when cases of human-to-human spreading were also noted. There was an outbreak of swine flu infection in pigs in 1988 in Wisconsin. This resulted in several cases of human infections, and virus transmission from the patient to health care workers closely associated with them (CDC, 2006).

History

There are instances of H1N1 infection in history. For instance, the Spanish flu pandemic that occurred during 1918 resulted in the deaths of 20-50 million people worldwide. However, only about 1% of those infected with the virus died. Since then H1N1 was categorized as the deadliest virus ever known. This virus is capable of traumatizing people and also become the cause of death. Later, this virus was identified as an H1N1 type A influenza.

Researchers found that the symptoms of infection were very common to the symptoms of seasonal flu and was very difficult to differentiate either of them. It was also noted that viral pneumonia results in acute respiratory distress. This was the main reason for the fatality among the infected people. Although the initial origin of the virus is still a mystery, the 1918 flu virus in humans is considered to be the first of this infection. During this time the United States reported about 675,000 cases (Federation of American Scientists, 2008). During 1977-78, Russian flu was also caused by strain Influenza A H1N1. However, during this period the most vulnerable were children and young adults and researchers pointed out that a similar strain prevalent in 1947–57 aided adults to develop immunity (Time, 1978).

Recent Swine Flu Pandemic

The recent wave of Swine flu was established in several countries and has been a cause of concern, as it is spreading from human to human at a much faster rate than ever before. The immunity to the virus is low and therefore all groups are at risk of catching it including the healthy adults, old age group, children and especially those with medical conditions (NHS, N.D.)

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Recent researchers and early studies confirmed that pigs infected with the influenza virus having symptoms such as runny nose, tiredness, cough, and less desire for food are the main cause. Though it is found that the virus disseminates from pig to pig through contact with infected mucous secretions, humans in contact with these infected pigs are at high risk (CDC, 2006). Flu viruses have an easy mode of transmission as these are made up of tiny particles that can be spread through small droplets coming from the nose and mouth when a person cough or sneezes or even talk. If anyone touches the surfaces that are touched by an infected person and then touches their faces, the virus makes an entry into their systems and can cause influenza (NHS, N.D.).

Symptoms

The swine flu has symptoms similar to those of seasonal flu and is treatable. However, only people with other health conditions and challenges are at a much higher risk of serious infection. The common symptoms include fever or high temperature (above 38°C/100.4°F) and more than two of the following symptoms:

  • eccentric letharginess,
  • headache,
  • runny nose,
  • tonsilites,
  • shortness of breath or cough,
  • loss of desire for food,
  • paining muscles,
  • diarrhoea or vomiting.

The high-risk groups have serious problems and these are people who need to start an antiviral medication. The high-risk group includes those people who suffer from frequent or long-term lung disease, chronic cardiac patients, chronic renal or liver disease, or neurological diseases such as motor neuron disease, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease, immunosuppression, or the most common diabetes mellitus. Additionally, the people who have been under the treatment for asthma in recent years, pregnant women, old aged people, and young children are at high risk (NHS, N.D.).

Pandemic influenza antiviral drugs

Since influenza A H1N1 is a recently identified virus only a few people with the infection have been treated for it with two classes of antiviral drugs, substances that retards the growth of the protein neuraminidase such as oseltamivir and zanamivir; and adamantanes like amantadine and rimantadine (WHO, 2009). WHO has taken several initiatives to promote the production of these antiviral drugs and reach out to as many countries as possible.

Prevention

As it is a common saying that prevention is always better than cure, it is the same with swine flue. The most common route of transmission of influenza A H1N1 virus is via droplets breathed out during speaking, sneezing, or coughing. It is possible to prevent the spread of infection by avoiding contact with infected people or with those who show influenza-like symptoms. Additionally, it would also be helpful if the infected person avoids touching the mouth and nose, cleanse the hands with soap and water or any alcohol-based hand rub at frequent intervals, isolate the confirmed cases, and avoid close contact with them, reduce the time spent in public places, practice good health habits such as adequate sleep, eating nutritious food that helps build the immune system, and good physical exercise. It is also important for those infected and also those that are not infected to use the mask of good quality for effective control of the spread of H1N1 (WHO, 2009).

References

CDC, (2006) Key Facts about Swine Influenza (Swine Flu), (Online) 2009. Web.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (2009) Seasonal Influenza (Flu), (Online) Web.

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Federation of American Scientists, (2008) 1918 Influenza A (H1N1) Fact Sheet (Online) 2009. Web.

Lynch, J.P. and Walsh, E.E (2007) Influenza: evolving strategies in treatment and prevention. Semin Respir Crit Care Med 28 (2): 144–58.

NHS, (N.D.) Swine Flu Information, (Online) 2009. Web.

nias.res.in, (2009) Swine Flu in Bangalore– Lessons Learnt and Preparedness, (Online) Web.

Time, (1978) Medicine: Invasion from the Steppes, (Online) 2009. Web.

WHO, (2009) Use of antiviral drugs against influenza A(H1N1) (Online) Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, October 30). H1N1 Flu as a Major Threat for Human Health. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/h1n1-flu-as-a-major-threat-for-human-health/

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StudyCorgi. (2021, October 30). H1N1 Flu as a Major Threat for Human Health. https://studycorgi.com/h1n1-flu-as-a-major-threat-for-human-health/

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"H1N1 Flu as a Major Threat for Human Health." StudyCorgi, 30 Oct. 2021, studycorgi.com/h1n1-flu-as-a-major-threat-for-human-health/.

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StudyCorgi. "H1N1 Flu as a Major Threat for Human Health." October 30, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/h1n1-flu-as-a-major-threat-for-human-health/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "H1N1 Flu as a Major Threat for Human Health." October 30, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/h1n1-flu-as-a-major-threat-for-human-health/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'H1N1 Flu as a Major Threat for Human Health'. 30 October.

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