What is Swine Flu?
Swine Influenza is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses. Outbreaks of swine influenza happen regularly in pigs. People do not normally get swine influenza, but human infections can and do happen. Most commonly, human cases of swine influenza happen in people who are around pigs but it's possible for swine influenza viruses to spread from person to person also.
It has been determined that this virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. However, at this time, it not known how easily the virus spreads between people.
Why is it affecting humans?
Infection with swine influenza virus has been detected occasionally in humans since the 1950s and human disease is usually clinically similar to disease caused by infections with human influenza viruses. Cases of swine influenza in humans usually occur after a history of exposure to pigs, more specifically, direct or close contact with infected pigs.
Person-to-person transmission, as suspected in the cases currently under investigation in the US and Mexico, has been previously reported but appears to be rare. Through the regular seasonal influenza surveillance that is done in Europe, a single case was reported in November 2008 in Spain, with mild symptoms.
Can people catch swine flu from eating pork?
No. Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food. You can not get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160°F kills the swine flu virus as it does other bacteria and viruses.
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 have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Symtoms of Swine Flu (links to NHS Choices website)
What treatment is available?
Antiviral drugs are available to treat influenza. They reduce the length of symptoms and usually their severity. Testing has shown that the human swine influenza H1N1 can be treated with the antiviral oseltamavir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza).
What measures can I take to prevent infection?
General infection control practices and good respiratory hand hygiene can help to reduce transmission of all viruses, including the human swine influenza. This includes: -
- Covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, using a tissue when possible.
- Disposing of dirty tissues promptly and carefully.
- Maintaining good basic hygiene, for example washing hands frequently with soap and water to reduce the spread of the virus from your hands to face or to other people.
- Cleaning hard surfaces (for example, door handles) frequently using a normal cleaning product.
- Making sure your children follow this advice.
You can also prepare now and in the build-up to a pandemic by:
- Confirming a network of 'flu friends' – friends and relatives – who could help you if you fall ill. They could collect medicines and other supplies for you so you do not have to leave home and possibly spread the virus.
- Knowing your NHS number and those of other family members and keeping them in a safe place. You will be able to find your NHS Number on your medical card or other items such as prescribed medication, GP letter or hospital appointment card/letter.
- Having a stock of food and other supplies available at home that will last for two weeks, in case you and your family are ill.
Daily updated information on Swine Influenza is available on the World Health Organisation website.
Further information is available from the following websites:
National Public Health Service for Wales
Information is also available by downloading the Swine Flu Information Leaflet produced by the Department of Health.
Swine Flu Information Leaflet (Link to Welsh Government website)