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Life lesson from Aamir Khan: if you have the flu, stay home

The couple did the right thing in staying home, but is H1N1 deadlier than other influenza (flu) viruses?  It’s not, which is why you must do what Aamir is doing: stay at home and have paracetamol till the symptoms go away in about a week.

health Updated: Aug 07, 2017 16:20 IST
Aamir Khan,Kiran Rao,H1N1
Fans are praying for Aamir Khan’s quick recovery from swine flu, little realising that recovery from all flu infections takes five days to a week (HT PHOTO)

Actor Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao announced they have swine flu, the popular name for the H1N1, on Sunday evening and were immediately declared public heroes for skipping a public event to avoid spreading the “deadly virus”.

The couple did the right thing in staying home, but is H1N1 deadlier than other influenza (flu) viruses?

Swine flu, so called because the virus shares genetic material with a virus that causes flu in pigs, mutated to cause its first human outbreak in Mexico in 2009, from where it spread rapidly to 214 countries within a year.

Since humans had no immunity against the new flu virus, H1N1 caused millions of infections, thousands of hospitalizations and close to 19,000 confirmed deaths between April 2009 and April 2010.

H1N1 infects and sickens like other flu virus now because continuing infection since 2009 has led to people developing “herd immunity”, which confers protection even to those who haven’t got infected.

In 2017-18, the World Health Organisation says, H1N1, along H3N2 and Brisbane viruses, are the dominant flu strains causing almost all seasonal flu infections in India.

So if you have the flu, it’s highly likely it is an H1N1 infection.

Instead of worrying yourself sick, do what the Khans did. Stay home till the fever goes down and you stop coughing and sneezing.

Like other flu viruses, H1N1 is a highly infectious virus that spreads rapidly from person to person through respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing or from touching contaminated surfaces (hands, desktops, door handles, etc).

Though confirmed H1N1 cases crossed 14,000 and deaths have touched 600 in the first half of this year, there is no indication that overall flu deaths in India are any higher.

So your chances of dying from seasonal flu are not higher just because the virus that’s causing the flu is H1N1.

Most people with flu, including H1N1 infection, recover from fever, headache, body ache and cough within a week, but people with low immunity and poorly-managed chronic diseases such as asthma, lung diseases, diabetes, cancer, kidney or heart problems may need hospitalization to manage complications.

Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, chest pain, sudden dizziness, confusion and persistent vomiting are signs that your symptoms need hospital management

Vaccination against the three viruses causing flu infection in 2017-18 – H1N1, H3N2 and Brisbane viruses – makes the severity of illness milder, so those in the high risk category should consider getting vaccinated.

Since most people recover from seasonal flu without complications, you encounter with H1N1 is likely to be uneventful too. So just do what Aamir did: stay home and have paracetamol for fever till the symptoms go away in a week.

First Published: Aug 07, 2017 16:20 IST