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
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
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.