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Swine Flu - A(H1N1) Influenza

    1.Swine Flu:

  • Swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza. It does not normally infect humans.
  • However, a new strain of swine flu caused by the H1N1 virus (H and N indicate the types of two proteins they poses) killed people in Mexico and the US arousing fears that it might set off a global pandemic.
  • The new H1N1 virus is a mix of swine, human and bird flu genes drawn from two flu strains that infected pigs.

    2.Symptoms of Swine Flu:
    Similar to those of regular flu - fever, cough, fatigue and lack of appetite.

    Tamiflu and Relenza are known to work against strains of seasonal influenza.

    4.Global Spread of Swine Flu or A(H1N1) Influenza:
  • In May end, 2009, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in its report that 40 countries had officially reported almost 10,000 laboratory confirmed human cases of A(H1N1) infection including 100 deaths.
  • Mexico, from where the outbreak of the disease started, reported 1,626 confirmed cases, including 45 deaths.
  • The US reported 2,254 cases, including two deaths.
  • Swine flu also spread to Asia after cases were confirmed in Hong Kong, South Korea, China and other countries.

    5.World Health Organisation (WHO) Declared Swine Flu a Pandemic:
  • On June 11, 2009 the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared swine flu or A (H1N1) influenza a pandemic. The last flu pandemic was declared 41years ago in 1968 when an estimated 1 million people were killed by the H3N1 virus.
  • The raising of the pandemic warning level from phase 5 to 6 meant that the disease was spreading fast but did not necessarily mean that it was causing more severe illness or more deaths.
  • The decision to raise the warning level would trigger drug manufacturers to speed up production of a swine flu vaccine and prompt governments around the world to devote more money toward efforts to contain the A (H1N1) virus.
  • The swine flu infections in the US, South America and other places in the world reached 30,000.
  • Mexico and the US had Shown that the Swine Flu Virus was Capable of Sustained Human-to-Human Transmission: The swine flu virus had shown in Mexico and the US that it was capable of sustained human-to-human transmission and of spreading within communities, according to Dr. Chan.
  • Countries should make sure that their pandemic alert plans are updated and had the necessary capacity to carry out those plans, according to Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General of WHO.
  • Countries needed to increase their surveillance and watchfulness for swine flu. The most important thing was to provide people with accurate information. The other essential aspect was to prevent infections from spreading within institutions like hospitals.
  • Swine Flu could be More Severe in Developing Countries:
    The swine flu or A(H1NI) influenza could cause mild disease in affluent societies but more severe disease with higher levels of sickness and death in developing countries.
  • Mild Cases Reported From Many Countries:
    WHO officials informed that relatively mild cases of swine flu were reported from many countries showing symptoms like headaches, fever, and cough that were very similar to seasonal influenza. However, in places like Mexico severe cases were reported which included complications like pneumonia.
  • Human Immune System could be Defenceless Against the H1N1 Virus:
    The genetic material of the flu virus is in eight segments. If two or more strains of flu infect a cell, their progeny could get a mix of those genetic segments. The H1N1 strain of swine flu is a mix of genetic material from pig, human and bird flu viruses. The human immune system could be defenceless against the H1N1 virus.
  • H1N1 Virus spreading through Humans who have been infected:
    According to WHO officials pointed out that the risk of getting infected by swine flu did not come from pigs or pork consumption. The virus was spreading through people who had been infected.
  • Countries where the A(H1N1) virus appeared to have peaked needed to remain vigilant and prepare for a second wave of infections because the flu was unpredictable, according to the WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.
  • At the early stage, the pandemic could be characterised globally as being moderate in severity, according to the WHO.

    6.India on Alert to Deal with Swine Flu:
  • Thousands of passengers arriving in the country from places like Mexico and Canada were screened. Seaports were also under observation.
  • On June 6, 2009 Andhra Pradesh went on health alert in the wake of a looming threat of influenza A (H1N1) flu virus, after authorities detected India’s first case of the virus getting transmitted to local people from an international passenger.
  • The State Governments were advised to maintain a precautionary vigil on the swine flu-like symptoms in the wake of increasing cases of A(H1N1) influenza.
  • The stockpile of medicines would be decentralised strategically and located in every State, along with protective equipment, according to the Joint Secretary, Health and Family Welfare Ministry, Vineet Chowdhry.
  • Supplies of capsules, personal equipment, N-95 masks and three-layered surgical masks were decentralised and kept at the Health and Family Welfare Ministry’s Regional Directors’ offices located in 19 cities.
  • The Central Government issued an advisory that the retail sale of Oseltamivir phosphate, under the name Tamiflu, was not permitted in India. It advised the people against buying the drug in the retail market. Tamiflu is the only drug known to be effective in curing influenza. Indiscriminate use of the drug could result in the virus developing resistance to this only known treatment of A(H1N1) influenza, according to the Government advisory.
  • India had a tremendous capacity to deal with swine flu situation in the event of an outbreak, according to the WHO. It was pointed out that India had a tremendous capacity to handle any situation and it was in the forefront of preparedness as it was in dealing with SARS and Avian influenza (bird flu).

    7.Measures Taken by India to Contain Swine Flu:
  • By the end of June 2009 the total number of confirmed A (H1N1) influenza cases in India had gone up to 68. Of the 68 cases, 41 had been discharged and the rest admitted to health facilities.
  • There was no death due to A (H1N1) influenza in India, according to the Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.
  • Given the size and population of the country, and the small number of confirmed cases reported, there was no need to panic, according to Mr. Azad.
  • India was fully prepared to face the A (H1N1) influenza or swine flu challenge. Sixteen more laboratories had been activated and 10 million does of Tamiflu procured, according to the Union Health and Family Welfare Minister.
  • The government would be decentralising its medicine stock and distributing it to seven centres across the country, including New Delhi, Karnal, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Guwahati, according to the Joint Secretary (Health and Family Welfare) Vineet Chowdhury.
  • The pandemic action plan would involve various government departments and also the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to contain the spread of the virus.

    8.India to Produce an Indigenous Vaccine for A (H1N1) Influenza:
  • The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) initiated steps to produce an indigenous vaccine for swine flu or A (H1N1) influenza and expects the vaccine to be available in four to six months at affordable rates.
  • The Vaccine would be produced in different regions of the country so that it would be available wherever required.

    9.Changes in the Genetic Makeup Could Make the A (H1N1) Virus More Infective:
  • The swine flu virus or the A (H1N1) influenza virus has the ability to transfer from one human to another. This chain of transmission, aided by global travel has taken the virus from Mexico to countries around the world.
  • Changes in the genetic makeup of the A (H1N1) virus could make it even more efficient at spreading and infecting people, according to scientists.
  • Viruses are generally genetic material packed in a protective coating. They cannot reproduce themselves and are obligate parasites that enter and take over a living cell. They use the living cell to make copies of themselves.
  • The swine flu virus could develop mutations in its genome and also swap gene segments with other flu viruses and could become even more adept at human-to-human transmission.

    10.Second Wave of Swine Flu Possible:
    Medical experts pointed out that although the A(H1N1) influenza was waning globally, the world must brace for a second wave of infection that previous pandemics have shown, could be far more virulent.

    11.Need for a Vaccine Against Flu Pandemic - Vaccines to be Available by the End of 2009:
  • In early May 2009, the WHO convened a meeting of all flu vaccine manufacturers to discuss production of a pandemic vaccine against the H1N1 strain. Producing a pandemic vaccine would take time. From the time a potentially pandemic flu strain is identified, it takes between four and six months to have the first doses of the vaccine available for use.
  • Swine flu vaccines have already been developed in laboratories around the world, but would not be available until the end of 2009, according to the manufacturers.

















Published date : 06 Sep 2009 03:02PM

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