What is swine flu?
The latest virus being called swine flu appears to be a mutated flu virus which has originated from pigs (which, like humans, are susceptible to respiratory illnesses). It is a mix of several strains of flu and is therefore classified as a new strain.
Influenza viruses can be a number of different types: there’s flu A, flu B and flu C. Flu A is the bird form and, of course, which can also infect humans. Flu viruses are further categorized according to the surface molecules, the H (for Haemagglutinin) and the N on the surface.
This new strain is a H1N1 virus, which circulates in humans, pigs and birds. It’s possible that the pig initially got some of its flu from a bird and then co-mixed that with the human form to produce this hybrid, which is why you can find elements of all three.
Follow the link to a graphic showing pig to human transmission
Why is it called swine flu?
The name swine flu has been coined as pigs are where the mutated virus originated.
How do you get swine flu?
As with any other type of flu, the new swine flu is spread through direct contact with a sick person or touching a surface which has the virus on it and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Through breathing in airborne droplets from an ill person sneezing or coughing.
Check out the video on what happens when you get the flu.
Is there a vaccine against the swine flu?
Not at the moment, the current seasonal version of flu vaccine has not been designed to protect against the new flu virus.
How can you avoid getting flu?
If swine flu is in your area avoid crowded places. Make only essential trips. Take normal precautions against infection, wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, avoid rubbing your face.
Of course the best way to avoid any kind of flu is to boost you immune system by getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy foods, taking nutritional supplements. Don’t smoke or drink alcohol to excess as these impair your body’s natural defenses. Avoid too much sugar, as sugar impairs your immune system.
Can you get swine flu from eating pork?
The WHO says no. Pigs entering the food supply are being screened and any found to be ill are excluded. Also, proper cooking will kill the virus.
Can you get swine flu from exposure to live pigs?
Yes, if they are sick with the illness. Piggery or abattoir workers are susceptible to catch the virus from infected stock.
Can you die from getting any sort of flu?
Unfortunately, yes. Usually only people with pre-existing illness or compromised immune systems (the very young or very old) are at risk of dying. Death rates of 1% are usual. The great Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1919 had a death rate of around 2.5%.
Is swine flu more dangerous than “normal” flu?
It’s probably too early in the outbreak to know. Fortunately, the antivirals Tamiflu and Relenza appear to be effective in reducing the symptoms. Antivirals need to be taken in the first 48 hours after contracting the illness.
What are the symptoms of swine flu?
In general flu symptoms are severe headaches, high fever with chills, muscle aches and body pains, extreme fatigue, dry cough. A runny nose, stomach upset with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are possible, particularly in children, but less common. Severity of symptoms will vary person to person and may start or worsen suddenly. It appears the swine flu may cause bloody mucus and vomiting. If your respiratory symptoms become bronchitis, pneumonia like worsen seek immediate medical attention.
Do I just have a common cold?
Maybe, if you don’t have a fever, aren’t very fatigued but do have a sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and a productive cough you’ve probably got a cold.
What to do if you become ill with flu-like symptoms
Don’t panic. Get plenty of rest, keep hydrated. Stay at home to avoid spreading your illness. Use tissues so they can be disposed of easily. Over-the-counter medications like analgesics can help relieve aches, pains and reduce fever. Cough suppressants help stop an annoying dry cough. Seek medical treatment if symptoms worsen, remember that the antivirals need to be taken within 48 hours. If you are worried call your doctor or hospital and ask their advice. If you have an existing condition or illness get medical advice sooner.
What does Epidemic mean?
A higher incidence (spread) of an infectious disease than would normally be expected.
What does Pandemic mean?
A combination of two things:-
- A significantly higher incidence of cases of an infectious disease.
- The size of the area affected by the spread of the disease.
Are antibiotics useful?
No, the flu is a viral infection not a bacterial infection. Antibiotics can be useful for any secondary infections.
What areas are affected by Swine Flu?
Go to http://healthmap.org/en which shows disease alerts by country/disease. Select/deselect using the menus on the left.