This Year’s Influenza Virus, The Swine Flu

Influenza is a viral illness more intense than the common cold and is typically associated with headache, muscle aches, fatigue and fever. The Swine flu pandemic which originated from the H1N1 strain of virus had its origins in Mexico sometime at the beginning of 2009. It rapidly spread to other areas of the world after it was identified in April and was soon labeled a pandemic by the WHO. There have been previous, smaller outbreaks of Mexican or Swine flu as the illness has become commonly known and some individuals (aged 50+), who had faced it the last time around have shown some immunity in the current outbreak.

Although the flu does not severely affect most individuals who get it, people with asthma, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and those with depressed immune systems form the high risk group and are more likely to fall extremely ill. Children below 5 years of age, pregnant women and senior citizens above 65 also form part of this group.

Although the spread of swine flu has been very rapid, continuously heightened level of alertness to control the frequently recurring avian flu virus over the last several years had kept the world better prepared to tackle this particular epidemic. Transmission of the virus is between humans and there is no transmission when eating cooked pork products. Coughing, sneezing and touching the nose or mouth after coming in contact with contaminated surfaces causes the virus to spread, so covering the appropriate areas and washing hands frequently is likely to arrest this to some extent; facial masks have been seen to be of limited effect.

The symptoms may last up to a week, depending on how severely a person has been infected and include fever, sneezing, dry cough, body pain and headaches. Sore throats, fatigue, runny nose and chills have also been reported by some sufferers and a bit of diarrhoea as well as vomiting. Extra care must be taken if there is a relapse, especially involving bacterial pneumonia, as the effects are likely to be much worse the second time.

Regarding treatment, existing vaccines for treatment of seasonal flu do not have any effect on the H1N1 strain. Since most of the infections are mild, the usual precautions and treatment for those suffering from seasonal flu should suffice. Worldwide deaths have been only a very small percentage of those infected. New vaccines have been tested and it is thought that just one dose should do the trick, especially in less severely infected patients. However younger children may require up to 2 doses. Many of the developed countries are trying to work out a mass vaccination campaign among their population – similar to the one used to eradicate polio.

Homeopathy also offers specific treatments for influenza, though there may not be one yet identified specifically for swine flu. Commonly used formulations include Arsenicum Album, Belladonna, Bryonia, Ferrum phosphoricum, Gelsemium, etc. There is even one that a doctor formulates each year tailored to the current strain of influenza that will help protect you from contracting the virus and it also helps relieve symptoms if you do get the flu. Self treatment may not be appropriate in case of H1N1, the swine flu, and the advice of a physician should be taken to get the correct formulation and dosage.