Swine Flu FAQ

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What is swine flu?

Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that cause regular outbreaks in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can and do happen. The swine flu virus was first isolated from a pig in 1930.

Is this swine flu virus contagious?

Yes. The CDC said that it is contagious. The spread of this swine flu virus is thought to be happening in the same way that seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing of people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. However, at this time, it is not known how easily the virus spreads between people.

What are the symptoms?

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.

What should you do if you have these symptoms?

Stay home. Don’t go to work, school or travel until you’ve been free of symptoms for a day. Some people are at higher risk because they have been to Mexico or have had close contact with someone who has been there. People should call their doctors to ask about the best treatment but should not simply show up at a clinic or hospital that is unprepared for their arrival.

Most people can recover from the flu just fine at home. Stay in bed, drink lots of fluids and take acetaminophen for pain. Wash your hands frequently and cover your mouth when you cough.

What should I do to keep from getting the flu?

First and most important: wash your hands. Try to stay in good general health. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food. Try not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

What is the best technique for washing my hands to avoid getting the flu?

Wash with soap and warm water for at least 15 to 20 seconds. When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used. You can find them in most supermarkets and drugstores. If using a gel, rub your hands until the gel is dry. The gel doesn’t need water to work; the alcohol in it kills the germs on your hands.

Does hand sanitizer work if I can’t wash my hands?

Yes, but it is preferable to wash your hands with soap and water.

How can someone with the flu infect someone else?

Infected people may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to seven 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.

Can I get swine flu from eating or preparing pork?

No. Swine influenza viruses are not spread by food. You cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe. Cooking kills the virus.

What is the incubation period for the flu?

In most cases, infected people develop symptoms within one to four days.

Is there a vaccine?

No vaccine exists to protect humans from the current swine flu, but governments are taking steps to prepare for the production of a swine flu vaccine. The seasonal flu vaccine available this year is not believed to be effective at warding off swine flu, and it’s unlikely that people vaccinated against the 1976 swine flu strain are protected against this new strain.

Are there medicines to treat swine flu?

Yes. CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir or zanamivir for the treatment and/ or prevention of infection with these swine influenza viruses. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaler) that fight against the flu by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in your body. If you get sick, antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious flu complications. For treatment, antiviral drugs work best if started soon after getting sick (within two days of symptoms).

How long can viruses live outside the body?

We know that some viruses and bacteria can live two hours or longer on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs, and desks. Frequent hand washing will help you reduce the chance of getting contamination from these common surfaces.

How long can an infected person spread swine flu to others?

People with swine influenza virus infection should be considered potentially contagious as long as they are symptomatic and for up to seven days following onset of the illness. Children, especially younger children, might potentially be contagious for longer periods.

Sources: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO) and medical professionals. Visit the CDC swine flu website, or the WHO website for more information.

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