Diagnosis of Swine flu – what you should know about the deadly H1N1 virus

Swine flu has already claimed so many lives across the nation and the toll is rising. Although precautionary measures to tackle swine flu have been employed by the Government, it is up to the patients to follow them properly and get tested, if they experience symptoms of this disease caused by H1N1 influenza A virus. The diagnosis of swine flu is usually based on the symptoms and the clinical history of the person.

Dr Abha Shroff, chief pathologist and director at Disha Pathology Labs, Mumbai explains, ‘As swine flu is a viral infection of the respiratory system and characterized by flu-like symptoms, a throat swab is one of the most effective ways to detect the virus. Other tests that are done include mucus test and blood test.’ However here are few things you need to know about diagnosis of swine flu:

  • There is no need to prepare for the test such as fasting before getting test. However, do not use mouthwash before going for the test as it may cleanse the microbial load present in the throat region.
  • If symptoms such as fever, cough or body pain do not subside within 2 – 3 days, then you should visit your doctor. Based on your symptoms and the severity of the infection, he/she may recommend tests or start with treatment for flu. Here are swine flu symptoms and signs you MUST be aware of!
  • As it takes around one day’s time for the symptoms to be seen after infection with the virus, it should be noted that those who are infected are contagious from a day prior to the sickness and around 5-7 days after the infection subsides.
  • Children, pregnant women and those suffering from life-threatening diseases and having low immunity are at an increased risk of infection and hence, if they experience any flu-like symptoms they should get tested to prevent spread of the infection.

Your doctor might conduct physical examination such as checking your body temperature and infection of the mouth, prior to ordering lab tests to detect swine flu. The common laboratory tests that are done to diagnose swine flu include:

Throat swab – DrPrakash Jiandani, director of critical care unit, Wockhardt Hospital, South Mumbai
mentions that,

‘This is done to identify the cause of the throat infection or respiratory infection. Your doctor will take a sample by rubbing sterile cotton swab at the back of your throat (namely near the tonsils). In some case, scrapping the area with the swab several times is done as it increases the chances of detection of the microbes.’

Mucus test – It involves analysis or testing of the nasal secretions (nasopharyngeal fluid) to detect the virus. The viral culture or sample is taken from the patient’s nose or mucus secretion around 4 – 5 days after being infection. This is because, the virus spreads easily during this stage and hence, the chance of infection is high. Read about is swine flu curable?

Blood test – As viral infections normally do not cause any changes in the routine blood test, a complete blood test (CBC) is also recommended. With the help of blood test, bacterial infection leading to flu-like symptoms may be ruled out.

Chest X-ray – This test might be recommended to detect the severity of the lung infection caused due to viral infection. This is usually prescribed for patients severely affected by swine flu and not every person suffering from this disease needs to undergo this test.

Urine test – Although urine test is not a mandatory test to detect swine flu, it is done in some cases to rule out urinary tract infections and related health complications.
These are common tests that are done to diagnose swine flu, however your doctor might recommended other tests as well to rule out other diseases. Even if the tests are positive, there is no need to panic as medications are available to get treated. Here is everything you should know about swine flu treatment and medicines — Tamiflu, Relenza and more.