Swine flu Q & A

Monday, April 27, 2009 - 01:04 PM

What is Swine Influenza
Swine flu is a respiratory disease normally found in pigs caused by type A influenza virus. Swine flu viruses do not normally infect humans. However, sporadic human infections with swine flu have occurred. In the past, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received reports of approximately one human swine flu infection every one to two years in the U.S., but from December 2005 through February 2009, 12 cases of human infection with swine influenza have been reported.

What are the symptoms of swine flu in humans?
The symptoms of swine flu in humans are generally similar to the symptoms of the normal human seasonal flu. Symptoms generally include fever, extreme tiredness, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. However, without a specific lab test, it is impossible to know whether you may be suffering from swine flu or another flu strain.

Can people catch swine flu from eating pork?
No. Swine flu is not transmitted by food. You can not get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160°F kills the swine flu virus as it does other bacteria and viruses.

How does swine flu spread?
Influenza viruses can be directly transmitted from pigs to people and from people to pigs. Human infection with swine flu usually occurs when people are in close proximity to infected pigs. Human-to-human transmission of swine flu occurs in much the same way as seasonal flu spreads, namely, through coughing or sneezing of people infected with the virus. People may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

If infected, a person may be able to infect another person one day before symptoms develop and up to seven or more days after becoming sick. Thus, a person is able to pass the flu on before they know they are sick. Those with swine flu should be considered potentially contagious as long as they are demonstrating symptoms and up to seven days longer from the onset of their illness. Children might be contagious for longer periods of time.

What medications are available to treat swine flu infections in humans?
At this time, CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) for the treatment and/or prevention of infection of swine flu. These drugs work best if started within two day of getting sick.

Will a flu shot protect me?
Not necessarily. The swine flu viruses are very different from human viruses. Thus, it is generally understood that vaccines for human seasonal flu will not provide protection from the swine flu.

For more information:
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
World Health Organization

A few key terms
Endemic: The usual existence of a disease in certain areas. For example, experts fear that bird flu may become endemic in Turkey’s poultry population.
Epidemic: Unusual occurrence of a disease that affects a large number of individuals within a population or region at the same time, or the occurrence of a disease in larger number of individuals than usual.
Pandemic: An epidemic occurring over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting large numbers of people. A global epidemic.


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