Monday, May 4, 2009

Swine Flu Basics

What is Swine Flu? 
It is a respiratory disease that commonly infects pigs, but is not typically seen in humans. In the time spanning December 2005 through February 2009, just 12 human infections were reported in the United States. However, since March 2009, infection with a new strain of swine flu A (H1N1) has been increasing in the U.S. and internationally.

In 1918 there was a worldwide pandemic during which over 50 Million people lost their lives. Short-term the good news is that even during the 1918 Flu Pandemic, the first wave in 1917 affected very few people. Long-term (being within a year to two years), the real problem occurred in the second year 1918 when 50 Million people died worldwide.

"Ounce of prevention to eliminate the need of a pound of cure."

In Mexico, by the end of April 2009, over 100 people died and 1,400 were sickened by the disease, while 10 New Zealand students who had recently returned from Mexico were also to be infected. Cases have also been discovered in Canada, Spain, Scotland, Israel, Britain and France.

In Mexico they are now distributing face masks to reduce the possibility of people acquiring an airborne strain of the virus.

What are the symptoms?
Swine flu is contagious and capable of spreading from person to person. The incubation period seems to be approximately 12 hours to 24 hours before symptoms appear. Like any flu, the symptoms can range from mild to severe, and include:
  • Fever (100.5 degrees F or higher)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Body, muscle aches
  • Diarrhea, vomiting
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
When diarrhea and vomiting are present see your doctor immediately as severe cases have progressed to pneumonia, respiratory failure and deaths. 

A respiratory specimen must be collected within the first four to five days of illness, when the infected person is most likely to be shedding the virus. However, some patients (such as children), may shed the virus for 10 days or longer, according to the CDC. Specimens must be sent to the CDC for laboratory testing in order to identify swine flu. 

How Do You Get It?
Typically swine flu is spread through contact with infected pigs or environments contaminated with swine flu viruses. However, most viruses are transferred by direct contact of touching a person’s hands or the surface they touched then touching your hands to your mouth, nose, eyes or ears.

You CANNOT get swine flu from eating pork or pork products, as the virus isn’t transmitted in food.

People with swine flu remain potentially contagious while symptoms are present and for up to seven days following the illness, although children can be contagious for even longer.

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