Byline: Vinod. Kapoor
Viral infections have always been one of the greatest health hazards to human life. H1N1 flu is the latest pandemic claiming human lives at quite a rapid rate, posing a major concern to health care providers all over the globe, more so in India.
H1N1 flu was so named in 2009 instead of being referred to as swine flu, since it exhibits two main surface antigens, H1 (Haemagglutinin Type 1) and N1 (Neuraminidase N1).
The most common mode of transmission of this virus is person to person by inhalation or ingestion of droplets containing virus from people sneezing or coughing. Since the symptoms of this viral infection are similar to those of most influenza infections, the diagnosis may not be so easy. Instead of using a nasopharyngeal swab for diagnosis, the recent, more advanced tests based on PCR technology are reliable and valid.
The two antiviral agents being used to combat the disease are Zanimivir and Oseltamivir, but the latest one being recommended is the Peramivir injection. Category A patients (those with mild symptoms) are to be given symptomatic treatment only, whereas category B and C patients (severe symptoms and/or positive cases) are put on specific medicines. However, the best way to prevent novel H1N1 flu is vaccination.
As a dental professional, utmost alertness is required in not only identifying the positive cases but also referring them to appropriate health care centers. Patients with acute respiratory problems must be made to sit in a separate closed waiting room, as isolation is important in all suspected cases. A disposable surgical mask must be offered to such coughing patients. Strict infection control protocol should be adhered to by the doctor and the paramedical staff when handling the suspected or confirmed cases.
Use of gloves, mask, gown, and protective eye wear is a must to prevent respiratory, skin, and conjunctival exposure. Respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette infection control measures along with contact precautions are recommended for preventing transmission of this virus in a dental health care setting.
Prevention of transmission is the main goal toward which all health care professionals including the dentists must strive.