Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Flu 101

My husband forwarded this email to me yesterday. The email came from Mr. Lory Tan of WWF.

Swine Flu "Basics"

What is swine influenza?

Swine influenza (also called swine flu or pig flu) is a group of influenza viruses that usually infects pigs. Infections in humans are uncommon. The current swine flu which is infecting people is a new strain of influenza A/H1N1. It is not certain how it developed. It's genetic makeup shows parts of human flu, avian (bird) flu and swine flu.

What are the symptoms of swine flu?

The symptoms are expected to be similar to that of regular human seasonal influenza: fever, lethargy, loss of appetite and coughing. Some reports indicate infected people may also have a runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Is there only one type of swine flu virus?

No. Like all human influenza viruses, swine influenza viruses change constantly. There are four main influenza type A virus "subtypes" which have been isolated in pigs: H1N1, H1N2, H3N2, and H3N1. The most common strain found in pigs is the H1N1 virus. However, sometimes pigs can be infected with more than one virus type at a time. This gives the genes from the viruses an opportunity to mix and "reassort" to form a new virus.

Can humans get sick with swine flu?

Yes. Human infections are uncommon, but have occurred in the past. Human infections with swine flu is more common in individuals who have direct exposure (close contact) with pigs. The new strain that began circulating in April 2009 can move from person to person, and so more people than usual are being infected.

Can swine flu be spread from human-to-human?

Yes, sometimes. Historical evidence shows human-to-human transmission of swine flu has occurred. In 1988, in Wisconsin USA, multiple human infections were reported after an apparent outbreak of swine flu in pigs. No community outbreak was ever officially announced, but there was serological evidence to show that the patient (who had direct contact with infected pigs) transmitted the virus to the treating health care workers.

The current swine flu H1N1 strain that has infected people in several countries in 2009 also moves person to person. Most cases had no contact with pigs.

How does swine flu spread?

Typically, swine flu can be spread from pigs to humans, and from humans to pigs. That is more likely to occur when people have close contact (or are in close proximity) with infected pigs.

If a swine flu virus mutates to a form that can move from person-to-person, it is likely to spread in the same ways traditional seasonal flu spreads between people. It's called “droplet” spread. When an infectious individual coughs, sneezes, talks, etc. they expel contaminated droplets. If these droplets get into someone else's mouth, eyes or nose, that person can become infected with the flu.

These droplets can also get on objects like doorknobs, counters, desks, armrests etc. People also become infected by touching surfaces that have the flu virus on it and then touching their nose or mouth. This is why personal hygiene is critical to staying well.

It may also be possible that influenza spreads via “aerosol” transmission, where the where the virus floats in the air and infects people (particularly in crowded places).

Can I catch swine flu from eating pork or pork products?

No. Swine flu viruses cannot be transmitted by food. It is safe to eat pork and pork products that have been properly handled and/or sufficiently cooked. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160°F (or 72°C) kills the swine flu virus as well as other viruses and bacteria.

Are swine H1N1 viruses the same has the human H1N1 viruses?

No. Swine flu H1N1 is genetically different from the human H1N1 strain. It is unlikely the human seasonal vaccine will provide protection against swine flu H1N1.


Travel Recommendations
updated April 28, 2009 GMT 02:20

All travelers (any destination)

People who have not had an annual flu vaccination should consider having one to prevent regular seasonal flu.

As a general good health practice, all travelers should:

· Maintain good personal hygiene. Wash your hands frequently. Avoid touching your face.

· Avoid people who are obviously sick.

· Cover coughs and sneezes with a mask or a tissue.

· Stay at home if you are unwell.

· Contact your health care provider if you or your children develop flu-like symptoms.

· Ensure their routine vaccinations are up-to-date. This includes pneumocococcal vaccination for certain adults: those over 65, people with serious long term health conditions and people whose immune systems are compromised due to transplants, cancer treatments, HIV/AIDS, etc. See the CDC information sheet for more details.

If you are in an affected area, or have traveled to an affected area recently:

· Monitor your health

· If you develop symptoms, seek medical attention. Advise the healthcare facility that you have recently been in an area that has reported swine flu.

· Parents should take their young children with fever or influenza-like symptoms for prompt medical attention.


Consider deferring non-essential travel to Mexico until further information on the extent and severity of the illness is available. Right now, there are no swine-flu related travel restrictions in place. If mandated travel restrictions are implemented, these would restrict movement into and out of the affected area / country.

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