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SWINE FLU – Questions and Answers
What is Swine flu?
Swine influenza is an acute viral infection of the respiratory tract in pigs. The
mortality in pigs is low and recovery usually occurs within 7-10 days. Swine
influenza viruses have also been detected in wild birds, poultry, horses and
humans, but interspecies transmission is considered a rare event.
Swine influenza is rare in people and there have been no cases detected inthe UK for over ten years. Where cases have been seen in the rest of theworld these have sometimes been linked to contact with pigs but often no linkis ever discovered. In the US there is an active swine influenza surveillanceprogramme to monitor pig viruses as they see more diversity in viruses than inany other country.
Why is it affecting humans?
Infection with swine influenza virus has been detected occasionally in humans
since the 1950s and human disease is usually clinically similar to disease
caused by infections with human influenza viruses. Cases of swine influenza
in humans usually occur after a history of exposure to pigs, i.e. direct or close
contact with infected pigs. Person-to-person transmission, as suspected in the
cases currently under investigation in the US and Mexico, has been
previously reported but appears to be rare. Through the regular seasonal
influenza surveillance that is done in Europe, a single case was reported in
November 2008 in Spain, with mild symptoms.
Can people catch swine flu from eating pork?
No. Swine influenza viruses are 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
What are the symptoms of swine flu in humans?
The symptoms of swine flu in people are expected to be similar to the
symptoms of regular human seasonal influenza and include fever, lethargy,
lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported
runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
What treatment is available?
Antiviral drugs are available to treat influenza. They reduce the length of
symptoms and usually their severity. Testing has shown that the human
swine influenza H1N1 can be treated with the antiviral oseltamavir (Tamiflu)
and zanamivir (Relenza).
What measures can I take to prevent infection?
General infection control practices and good respiratory hand hygiene can
help to reduce transmission of all viruses, including the human swine
influenza. This includes:
Covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, using a tissue
Disposing of dirty tissues promptly and carefully.
Maintaining good basic hygiene, for example washing hands frequently
with soap and water to reduce the spread of the virus from your hands toface or to other people.
Cleaning hard surfaces (e.g. door handles) frequently using a normal
Making sure your children follow this advice.
Is this the next influenza pandemic?
It is too early to say whether the cases in Mexico and the US will lead to a
larger outbreak or could represent the appearance of potential pandemic
strain of influenza virus.
There is currently insufficient evidence to understand the extent to whichcases in Mexico and the US are firmly linked or to make a completeassessment of the health implications of this new virus.
The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) is the decisionmaker in terms of declaring an influenza pandemic and elevating the globalstages of pandemic alert. Experts from around the world are working in closecollaboration with WHO to help determine what risk this situation poses toglobal public health.
If someone who has been to the affected areas of Mexico and/or the U.S
is feeling sick what should they do?
Anyone who has recently traveled to the affected areas and is experiencing
influenza like illness should stay at home to limit contact with others, and seek
medical advice from a local health professional or by contacting NHS Direct.
More information about Swine Flu can be found by visiting the HealthProtection Agency’s website by clicking here or by copying and pasting thefollowing web link in to your web browser:
Or by visiting the Department of Health website at www.dh.gov.uk
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