What the Heck is Swine Flu?

Headlines: Houston ISD closes two schools due to positive swine flu cases. Cruises scheduled to Mexico have been changed to different ports of call.  All this chaos due to a little old flu? What is the big deal?

Swine flu viruses are common among the pig populations. Estimates of 25-50 % of  hogs in the United States have been exposed to one of several influenza viruses. With most swine flu influenza viruses, the pig runs a fever, looses his appetite and has a runny nose along with sneezing. The affected pigs usually recover within 5 to 7 days. A lot of the pigs can get infected with the virus, but the death rate is generally low. Pigs spread the virus by close contact with contaminated objects and with other pigs. Pigs do have a vaccine for the swine flu.

The current outbreak of swine flu is just a little different from the average swine flu. In April, 2009, an outbreak of influenza occurred in Mexico and almost simultaneously in the United States from a strain of swine influenza virus tagged (SIV) A (H1N1).  Most influenza strains prefer their own species. Pigs have pig flu and humans have human flu. However, flu viruses can and often do “mix” in a genetic exchange of material. This can happen when certain hosts, like a pig, are infected at the same time with both human and swine flu viruses. The new combination results in a new unique virus unknown to humans. In the current case of H1N1 swine flu, it appears that pigs are not affected. No pigs in the United States have been reported with this virus type. This particular new virus has material from swine viruses, avian (bird) viruses and human viruses which allowed the human to human transmission. It is also important to note that swine flu is not transmitted by eating pork products.

Most people with a normal, healthy immune system may have minimal signs, but since this is a new virus and humans have not been exposed to it, an epidemic may occur. Therefore the United States Government has declared a public health emergency in the United States. CDC’s response goals are to reduce transmission and illness severity, and provide information to help health care providers, public health officials and the public address the challenges posed by this emergency.

Visit http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/ for the most current Swine Flu information

What are the signs and symptoms of swine flu in people?
The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. In the past, severe illness (pneumonia and respiratory failure) and deaths have been reported with swine flu infection in people. Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.

How can someone with the flu infect someone else?
Infected people may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 7 or more days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

How serious is swine flu infection?
Like seasonal flu, swine flu in humans can vary in severity from mild to severe. Between 2005 until January 2009, 12 human cases of swine flu were detected in the U.S. with no deaths occurring. However, swine flu infection can be serious. In September 1988, a previously healthy 32-year-old pregnant woman in Wisconsin was hospitalized for pneumonia after being infected with swine flu and died 8 days later. A swine flu outbreak in Fort Dix, New Jersey occurred in 1976 that caused more than 200 cases with serious illness in several people and one death.

Visit http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/ for the most current Swine Flu information
Tips for Staying Healthy

  • Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
  • Take everyday actions to stay healthy.
    • 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 hands cleaners are also effective.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
    • Stay home if you get sick. CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.