H1N1 is a respiratory disease that is caused by the Type A influenza virus. It was first noticed in the United States in April 2009. It is a very new virus that is causing illness worldwide. The World Health Organization named H1N1 or the “swine flu” to be the first new pandemic of the twenty-first century. It is spread very similarly to the way a seasonal influenza virus is spread, by the infected person coughing or sneezing. Occasionally, someone can get H1H1 by touching a surface with the virus on it and touching their mouth or nose. H1N1 flu symptoms in humans can also vary in severity. Symptoms of H1N1 include fever, cough, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, body aches, headache, fatigue and chills. Some people have also reported having diarrhea and vomiting. Alike the seasonal flu, severe illness and even death has occurred.
Since H1N1 has not been previously identified, it is now under intense research and scientists are collecting information rapidly. In July of 2009, the World Health Organization reported over 94,000 confirmed cases of H1N1 in 135 different countries. At least 700 people died because of the new virus and has been noted to be the fastest spreading pandemic ever reported. Mexican had reported nearly 8,000 confirmed cases and 115 deaths. Canada reported about 6,500 cases and 15 deaths. Other countries such as Columbia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, the United Kingdom, and the Philippines also reported deaths. It even reached to the Southern Hemisphere where Australia reported 2,857 cases and 2 deaths, Argentina reported 1,213 cases and 7 deaths, and Chile reported 4,315 cases and 4 deaths. WHO officials stopped focusing on the accumulating case counts and were in favor of concentrating on vaccine and anti-viral medication developments and delivery.
In the United States, seasonal influenza accounts for about 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths each year. By the end of July 2009, about fifty percent of flu cases were present in ages between 5 and 24. The highest rates for hospitalization were found in infants and children under four years of age. There is no specific cause of H1N1 and the illness differs from the seasonal flu, which is usually found in the elderly. A report published in the medical journal The Lancet found that pregnant women are four times as likely to contract swine flu and then be hospitalized for it.
There are several ways to prevent prevalence of this disease. First, start by always washing your hands especially if you are coughing and sneezing. Cover your mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and throw the tissue in the trash can immediately after. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are effective. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth in order to prevent the spreading of germs. Avoid any contact with sick people and stay home if you become sick for at least 24 hours after being free of fever. There is also a seasonal H1N1 flu vaccine available and is highly recommended for those who are six months and older. Those at the highest risk of contracting H1N1 include the elderly, children under five, people with health complications, and those working in a health care setting where they are around the ill.
Treatment for H1N1 is nearly the same as all influenza viruses. This includes drinking plenty of fluids, use of acetaminophen for aches and fever, and extended bed rest. H1N1 also responds to two anti-viral drugs, oseltamivir and zanamivir. Neither of these drugs cures or can prevent the flu but if they are taken within 48 hours of the start of symptoms, they will reduce the severity and duration of the flu.
At the end of April 2009, the US government released large amounts of antiviral drugs in order to combat H1N1. H1N1 is resistant to amantadine and rimantadine making these pre-existing flu medications ineffective. Antibiotics can be used to treat pneumonia, a bacterial complication of influenza. In June 2009, Denmark reported the first case of H1N1 that was resistant to oseltamivir. H1N1 resistance to oseltamivir has also been found in Japan, Hong Kong, and Canada. So far, zanamivir is still effective in the treatment of H1N1. Some home remedies have helped in the treatment of H1N1 also. Ginger is found to reduce fever and pain, settle the stomach, and suppress cough. Echinacea helps with sore throat,chills, sweating, weakness, body aches, fatigue, and headaches. Cordyceps “boost” the immune system and improve respiration. Eucalyptus or peppermint when added to a steam vaporizer can help clear chest and nasal congestion.
“H1N1 influenza A (2009).” Brenda Wilmoth Lerner. and Tish Davidson, A.M. Gale Health Collection. Online Edition. Detroit: Gale, 2010.
Ashwani Sharma, Ashish V. Tendulkar, Pramod P. Wangikar. (2010) Medicinal Chemistry Research. Dec 2011 v20 i9 p1445(5). doi:10.1007/s00044-010-9375-5