Swine Flu

Tis the season and this time around it’s really bad. You all heard it on the news, read it in the papers;  Swine Flu is what were talking about, H1N1, the strain that is usually found in swine. We can’t do everything for you to make sure you don’t get it but we can give you some insight on what it is, how to deal with it and hopefully you can avoid it.


Diagram of swine influenza symptoms

Diagram of swine influenza symptoms By: Mariana Ruiz Villarreal via Wikimedia Commons

What is Swine Flu?

Swine Influenza  is a respiratory disease caused by a type A influenza virus that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza in pigs.  The viruses can cause high levels of illness and low death rates and low death rates in pigs. It may circulate amongst swine throughout the year, but more outbreaks occur during the late fall and winter months similar to other outbreaks in humans. The classical virus was first isolated from a pig in 1930.

How many flu types are there?

Like all influenza viruses, swine flu viruses change constantly change. Pigs can be infected by avian influenza, human influenza viruses and swine influenza viruses as well. When the viruses from different species infect pigs, they can swap genes and new viruses that are a mix of swine, human and/or avian flu viruses can emerge. Over the years different variations of swine flu have been isolated in pigs namely H1N1, H1N2, H3N2 and H3N1; however, most of the most recent ones have been the H1N1 virus.


Can Humans catch the Flu?

Swine flu viruses did not normally infect humans. However, sporadic human infections with swine flu have occured. Most commonly, these cases occur in people with direct exposure to pigs like children at petting zoos or workers in the swine industry. In addition there have been documented cases of one or more people spreading swine flu to others.

How common is swine flu in humans?

In the past the CDC received reports of approximately one human swine flu virus infection every one to two years in the US; but from December 2005 through February 2009, 12 cases of human infections with swine flu have been reported.

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 reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

How does swine flu spread?

The virus can be directly transmitted from pigs to humans and from humans to pigs. Human infection from pigs are most likely to occur when people are in close contact with infected swine, such as in pig farms and livestock exhibits housing pigs at fairs. Human to human transmission can also occur and is thought to occur in the same way as seasonal flu occurs in humans which is mainly through sneezing, coughing by people infected with the virus. You can also get infected by touching something infected with the virus and then touching your nose or mouth.

What do we know about human to human spreading of swine flu?

In December of 1988, a previously healthy 32 year old pregnant woman was hospitalized for pneumonia and died 8 days later. A swine H1N1 flu virus was detected. Four days before getting sick, the patient visited a county fair swine exhibition where there was widespread influenza-like illness among the swine.

How can human infections be diagnosed?

To diagnose swine flu A infection, a respiratory specimen would generally need to be collected within the first 4 to 5 days of illness when it is more likely the infected person is shedding virus. However some people, especially children may shed virus for up to 10 days or longer.

Is human H1N1 virus the same as swine H1N1 virus?

No. The H1N1 swine flu viruses are antigenically very different from human H1N1 viruses and, therefore, vaccines for human seasonal flu would not provide protection from H1n! swine flu viruses.


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