H1N1 in Myanmar
September , 2017

H1N1 flu virus is very contagious. It is spread the same way as regular seasonal influenza. A person infected with H1N1 flu virus can infect others starting a day before symptoms develop and up to seven or more days after becoming ill. Influenza is spread from person to person when the virus enters the body through the eyes, nose, or mouth. Coughing and sneezing releases the germs into the air where they can be breathed in by others. The virus can also rest on hard surfaces like doorknobs. A person who touches the surfaces with their hands and then touches their eyes, mouth, or nose can become infected with the virus. Influenza is generally not spread by eating food or drinking water. People suffering from diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular issues, cancer and HIV among others and pregnant women are considered to have the highest risk of infection.

The death toll in Myanmar from H1N1 virus has reached 23 since July 2017 according to a statement by the Ministry of Health and Sports. The death toll this year in the Yangon city alone reached 13 in August after 13 patients died due to infection. A total of 535 people have been hospitalized with severe acute respiratory infection in ten out of 15 regions of the country since July 21, according to the Health Department under the Ministry. The department said in a press release that the outbreak had claimed 23 patients so far, while 204 others were confirmed to have been infected with the H1N1 virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) is providing technical support to the Myanmar government, consulting with regional experts, and offering assistance to have samples tested abroad. In addition to the swine flu outbreak, Myanmar also confirmed last month a H5N1 virus outbreak, commonly known as bird flu, in Yangon and in the southernmost region of Tananthari.

H1N1 virus or swine flu is a respiratory disorder. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus is a strain of influenza. It is commonly known as swine flu because it was detected in patients who were directly in contact with pig and genetic analyses of the virus shows that it originated from animal influenza viruses. It was detected for the first time in North America in April 2009, after which it rapidly spread all around the world. In June 2009, the disease spread across 74 countries and territories. It spreads from exposure to an infected person. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, he/she leaves behind infected droplets. Exposure to these infected droplets can contaminate hands and surfaces. The symptoms of H1N1 are similar to season flu. The symptoms included cough, fever, sore throat, runny nose, headache and body ache. In extreme cases, the patient also feels chills and fatigue. The swine flu, like every other regular flu, can develop into serious problems such as pneumonia, lung infection and other breathing problems.

Getting vaccination each year reduces symptoms, shortens the duration of the illness and lowers doctors’ visits and flu-related hospitalizations. But people in Myanmar rarely get vaccinated against H1N1. Vaccination not just protects us from infection but also makes you less contagious and reduces the transmission of infection. As more people get vaccinated, the viral load in the community goes down and everyone develop ‘herd immunity’, which makes fewer people vulnerable to serious flu complications, according to the WHO. All influenza vaccines contain trace levels of egg protein and should not be given to people with egg protein allergies

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