Swine Flu - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Prevention & Treatment

Dealing with Swine Flu

Authored by Dr.Mohan Rao on 5 Jan 2015 - 10:46

Swine flu is an infection caused by one of the swine influenza viruses which are endemic in pigs. The different types of Swine Influenza Viruses (SIV) are:

  • H1N1
  • H1N2
  • H2N1
  • H3N1
  • H3N2

Other names used to refer Swine flu are Pig flu, Pig influenza, Hog flu and Swine influenza. Humans usually are not infected by these viruses, but certain ‘variant’ swine influenza viruses can cause infection in human beings. These viruses are denoted by adding the letter ‘v’ at the end of virus names. H1N1v is the most common cause of Swine flu in human beings.




Swine flu virus enters your body through nose when you inhale contaminated droplets and it may also get transmitted from contaminated surface to eyes or mouth. Infected people can be contagious up to 10 days from onset of symptoms.

Symptoms of swine flu include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Nausea / Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Malaise
  • Photophobia
  • Sore throat (pharyngitis)
  • Eye pain
  • Breathlessness (Dyspnea)
  • Myalgia

Emergency warning signs in children:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Bluish discoloration of skin
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Irritable on being held
  • Flu like symptoms which subside and reoccur again with high fever and cough
  • Fever with rashes

Emergency warning signs in adults:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Confusion
  • Persistent or severe vomiting
  • Flu like symptoms which subside and reoccur again with high fever and cough



Diagnosis based on physical examination and symptoms may not help in confirming the condition as swine flu since there are several other conditions which mimic the symptoms of swine flu. CDC recommends Real time PCR as method of choice for diagnosing H1N1 infection.

Real time PCR: It is a laboratory technique based on polymerase chain reactions which amplify and detect targeted swine flu virus.

Nasopharyngeal swab test: It is performed to determine whether an infection is caused due to type A or type B influenza virus. If the test shows positive results with type, the infection is not likely to be swine flu whereas type A positive result indicates a possibility of swine flu.


  • Swine farmers
  • Veterinarians and meat processors
  • Travelers to an area with swine flu cases
  • Weak immune system
  • Chronic conditions like chronic lung/ kidney/ heart diseases, asthma, diabetes, heart failure, cancer, acute respiratory distress syndrome, encephalopathy, myocarditis, Reye syndrome
  • Wheeze
  • Patients who were treated for asthma in the past three years
  • Pregnant women
  • Patients above 65 years of age
  • Children



Anti-viral medications can be used to treat Swine flu as it is caused by a virus. CDC recommends the use of Oseltamivir and/or Zanamivir within 2 days from the onset of symptoms. These drugs alleviate your disease severity and relieve you from symptoms.

Antibiotics should not be used since there is no involvement of bacteria in Swine flu. Over the counter (OTC) medications may help in relieving symptoms related to pain and fever. Aspirin should not be given for patients younger than 18 years of age owing to its high risk of causing Reye’s syndrome.

Non-drug therapy:

  • Stay home until you are completely cured
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Get more sleep to help immune system fight against the infection
  • Avoid dairy products to prevent worsening of your sore throat
  • Salted warm water gargle can relieve your throat
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage can help strengthen your immunity.
  • Avoid fatty and spicy foods



  • H1N1 vaccination, 1 or 2 doses given as Intramuscular injection or nasal drops. It may cost Rs.300 to 600.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly vaccination as the first and important measure to prevent Swine flu.
  • Maintain hand and respiratory hygiene
  • Dispose waste tissues in a bin as soon as it is used
  • Clean work places with a disinfectant
  • Stay away from crowded areas if there is an outbreak in your community








*Disclaimer This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.