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Written by Dr.Swati Rajagopal

H1N1 is like any other seasonal flu virus. Flu season is normally from November to December and early January to February, but can continue from April to May, especially in places like Delhi.

A contagious respiratory virus, H1N1 also spreads through contact. Droplets from cough and sneezing spread the virus easily. If one touches the surface or an object that has the flu virus and then brings the hand in contact with mouth, eye or nose, the virus spreads.

While handing flue patients, healthcare workers have to wear protective like gloves, masks and gowns.

The public should be given access to vaccines and anti-viral drugs. The flu vaccine provides up to 70% protection from the virus and is considered the best precautionary method available at the moment. But some mutant forms of H1N1 are known know to respond to vaccine, and more studies are required to observer their behavior.

Anti-viral drugs should be given within 48 hours on the onset of symptoms for best medical results. Diagnostic tests that are available now can differentiate between seasonal and H1N1 influenza.

Patients should improve their immunity with good nutrition. Milder versions of H1N1 often subside when the body has proper nutrition. People with flu-like symptoms should be encouraged to isolate themselves at home for a week to reduce the spread of infection.

Early detection and treatment can prevent the condition from getting worst. The general public and government health agencies should be educated about the warning signs and symptoms. People with symptoms of cold and cough must wear masks to avoid the spread of infection. They should cover their mouth while coughing and sneezing.

If patients with H1N1 are being treated at home, others in the household should wash their hands frequently with soap and water. If soap and water is not available they should use hand rubs with atleast 60% of alcohol. People taking care of patients at home should wear a facemask at all times.

Senior citizen above 65 and children less than two years are most vulnerable at H1N1. Patients with chronic health conditions, like asthma, heart disease, diabetes and cancer, are also at high risk. The flu can also lead to complications among pregnant women.

One should consult a doctor when they experience difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath, purple or blue discoloration of lips, chest tightness, sudden dizziness, confusion, persistent vomiting or flu like symptoms that improve but return with worsening cough and fever.

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