Swine flu (swine influenza) is a respiratory disease caused by viruses (influenza viruses) that infect the respiratory tract of pigs, resulting in nasal secretions, a barking cough, decreased appetite, and listless behaviour. Swine flu produces most of the same symptoms in pigs as human flu produces in people. Swine flu can last about one to two weeks in pigs that survive. Swine influenza virus was first isolated from pigs in 1930 in the U.S. and has been recognized by pork producers and veterinarians to cause infections in pigs worldwide.
How is swine flu transmitted? Is swine flu contagious?
Swine flu is transmitted from person to person by inhalation or ingestion of droplets containing virus from people sneezing or coughing; it is not transmitted by eating cooked pork products. The newest swine flu virus that has caused swine flu is influenza A H3N2v (commonly termed H3N2v) that began as an outbreak in 2011. The “v” in the name means the virus is a variant that normally infects only pigs but has begun to infect humans. There have been small outbreaks of H1N1 since the pandemic; a recent one is in India where at least three people have died
What are the Symptoms of Swine Flu?
Symptoms of swine flu in humans are similar to most influenza infections: fever (100 F or greater), cough, nasal secretions, fatigue, and headache
H1N1 flu signs and symptoms in humans are similar to those of other flu strains:
- Fever (but not always)
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Watery, red eyes
- Body aches
- Nausea and vomiting
Some patients develop severe respiratory symptoms and need respiratory support (such as a ventilator to breathe for the patient). Patients can get pneumonia (bacterial secondary infection) if the viral infection persists, and some can develop seizures. Death often occurs from secondary bacterial infection of the lungs
H1N1 flu symptoms develop about one to three days after you’re exposed to the virus.
How is swine flu diagnosed?
Swine flu is presumptively diagnosed clinically by the patient’s history of association with people known to have the disease and their symptoms listed above. Usually, a quick test (for example, nasopharyngeal swab sample) is done to see if the patient is infected with influenza A or B virus. Most of the tests can distinguish between A and B types. The test can be negative (no flu infection) or positive for type A and B. If the test is positive for type B, the flu is not likely to be swine flu. If it is positive for type A, the person could have a conventional flu strain or swine flu.
Swine flu is definitively diagnosed by identifying the particular antigens (surface proteins) associated with the virus type. In general, this test is done in a specialized laboratory and is not done by many doctors’ offices or hospital laboratories.
What is the treatment of Swine flu?
Most cases of flu, including H1N1 flu, require only symptom relief. If you have a chronic respiratory disease, your doctor may prescribe additional medications to help relieve your symptoms.
High-risk groups are those who:
- Are in a hospital, nursing home or other long-term care facility
- Are younger than 5 years of age, particularly children younger than 2 years
- Are 65 years and older
- Are pregnant or within two weeks of delivery, including women who have had pregnancy loss
- Are younger than 19 years of age and are receiving long-term aspirin therapy, because of an increased risk of developing Reye’s syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal disease that can occur when using aspirin during a viral illness
- Are morbidly obese, defined as having a body mass index above 40
- Have certain chronic medical conditions, including asthma, emphysema, heart disease, diabetes, neuromuscular disease, or kidney, liver or blood disease
- Are immunosuppressed due to certain medications or HIV
- Are American Indians or Native Alaskans
If you develop any type of flu, these measures may help ease your symptoms:
- Drink plenty of liquids. Choose water, juice and warm soups to prevent dehydration.
- Rest. Get more sleep to help your immune system fight infection.
- Consider pain relievers. Use an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), cautiously. Also, use caution when giving aspirin to children or teenagers.
How to prevent Swine flu?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends flu vaccination for all people older than 6 months of age. An H1N1 virus is one component of the seasonal flu shot for 2014-15. The flu shot also protects against two or three other influenza viruses that are expected to be the most common during the flu season.
- The vaccine will be available as an injection or a nasal spray. The nasal spray is approved for use in healthy people 2 through 49 years of age who are not pregnant. The nasal spray isn’t recommended for people who are older than 50, younger than 2, pregnant or allergic to eggs, or people who have asthma or a compromised immune system, or those who use aspirin therapy.
These measures also help prevent swine flu (H1N1 flu) and limit its spread:
- Stay home if you’re sick. If you have swine flu (H1N1 flu), you can give it to others. Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone.
- Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. Use soap and water, or if they’re unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Contain your coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. To avoid contaminating your hands, cough or sneeze into a tissue or the inner crook of your elbow.
- Avoid contact. Stay away from crowds if possible. And if you’re at high risk of complications from the flu — for example, you’re younger than 5 or you’re 65 or older, you’re pregnant, or you have a chronic medical condition such as asthma — consider avoiding swine barns at seasonal fairs and elsewhere.
- Reduce exposure within your household. If a member of your household has swine flu, designate only one household member to be responsible for the ill person’s personal care.