Swine flu is a respiratory virus which is caused by influenza A that occurs in pigs. Typically the virus would spread from pig to pig and at times would move from pig to humans, usually due to direct contact with the animals. The virus usually is not able to transmit effectively among people and would not infect beyond three individuals.
Since late March and early April of 2009, a particular strain of swine flu influenza A (H1N1) has been identified first in Texas and Southern California which appears to spread more efficiently among people. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is tracking the number of cases in the United States as well as various other health agencies like the World Health Organization (WHO). Although the cases in the US have been mild without any reported deaths at this time, in Mexico, already about 1800 cases have been confirmed with nearly 90 deaths, mostly in young healthy individuals.
It appears to be spreading by the respiratory route, that is from exposure to infected respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing.
Since the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic which killed millions of individuals, mainly young and healthy, scientists are always concerned that the next flu outbreak is the next big one. It is currently too early to tell. As of now there is no vaccine for the swine flu. There are steps you can take to prevent it.
What You Must Do
Recommendations from the CDC are common sense and apply not only to preventing the flu but also the common cold. These include:
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
If you get sick with influenza, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them. What is the best way to keep from spreading the virus through coughing or sneezing?
Although it is unlikely that one can find the past year’s influenza vaccine available, getting vaccinated probably won’t help protect against the swine flu.
Ideally, the best prevention is to avoid individuals who are ill. Facemasks may be helpful if needed to care for someone ill. A N95 disposable respirator is a better option than a facemask. More important tips on caring for an ill person from the CDC.
Watch Out for Symptoms
Symptoms of the swine flu are similar to that of the human flu, influenza, which occurs seasonally in the winter.
Sudden onset of high fever, shakes, chills.
Low back pain
Unlike the common cold where symptoms build up gradually, patients with the flu always seem to remember what they were doing when they were overcome by symptoms. “Doctor, I was fine until about 4pm when all of a sudden I felt muscle aches all over.”
If you have symptoms of the flu, it is important to contact your doctor right away, ideally within 2 days of onset. There are prescription medications that can be helpful, but must be taken within 2 days of symptoms.
Don’t Believe the Myths
You don’t need to worry about eating pork or pork related products. It doesn’t spread by food.
Stay Informed and Educated
Learn more from the ongoing investigation from the CDC.