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Responding to the H1N1 “Swine” Flu Outbreak


Get the Facts

With all of the attention that swine flu has been getting in the media, your employees may have questions about what the swine flu is, what the symptoms are, and how it can be transmitted.

  • What is swine flu? Swine influenza, or “swine flu”, is a highly contagious acute respiratory disease of pigs, caused by one of several swine influenza A viruses. Morbidity tends to be high and mortality low (1-4%). The virus is spread among pigs by aerosols, direct and indirect contact, and asymptomatic carrier pigs. Outbreaks in pigs occur year round, with an increased incidence in the fall and winter in temperate zones. Many countries routinely vaccinate swine populations against swine influenza.
  • What are the implications for human health? Outbreaks and sporadic human infection with swine influenza have been occasionally reported. Generally clinical symptoms are similar to seasonal influenza but reported clinical presentation range broadly from asymptomatic infection to severe pneumonia resulting in death.
  • How does H1N1 flu spread?
    Human-to-human transmission of H1N1 flu can occur in the same way as seasonal flu occurs in people, which is mainly person-to-person transmission through coughing or sneezing of people infected with the influenza virus. People may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.
  • What are the symptoms of swine flu? Symptoms of swine flu include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, body aches, vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Is there a vaccine to protect humans from swine influenza? There are no vaccines that contain the current swine influenza virus causing illness in humans. It is not known whether current human seasonal influenza vaccines can provide any protection. Influenza viruses change very quickly. It is important to develop a vaccine against the currently circulating virus strain for it to provide maximum protection to the vaccinated people.
  • How can human infections with swine influenza be diagnosed? To diagnose swine influenza A infection, a respiratory specimen would generally need to be collected within the first 4 to 5 days of illness (when an infected person is most likely to be shedding virus). However, some persons, especially children, may shed virus for 10 days or longer. Identification as a swine flu influenza A virus requires sending the specimen for laboratory testing.
  • What treatments are there available for swine flu? The recommended anti-viral medications are the same as the treatments for regular influenza: Tamiflu and Relenza. Treatment will be more effective if it is started within 48-hours of the onset of the illness. If you or anyone within your organizations has flu symptoms, they should see their doctor immediately.