FAQ on the Swine Flu
Swine Flu — Get Informed. Be Prepared.
What is swine flu? Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that causes regular outbreaks in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can and do happen.
Is this swine flu virus contagious? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has determined that this swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. However, at this time, it not known how easily the virus spreads between people.
What are the signs and symptoms of swine flu in people? 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.
How does swine flu spread? Spread of this swine influenza A (H1N1) 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.
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.
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 to not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
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 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 possible for up to 7 days following illness onset. Children, especially younger children, might potentially be contagious for longer periods. Germs can be spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth. Droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air. Germs can be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets from another person on a surface like a desk and then touches their own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands.
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.
What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?There is no vaccine available right now to protect against swine flu. There are everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza:
§ Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
§ Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
§ Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
§ Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
§ If you get sick with influenza, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
What is the best way to keep from spreading?If you are sick, limit your contact with other people as much as possible. Do not go to work or school if ill. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Put your used tissue in the waste basket. Cover your cough or sneeze if you do not have a tissue. Then, clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or sneeze.
What is the best technique for washing my hands to avoid getting the flu?Wash with warm soap and water or clean with alcohol-based hand cleaner. It is recommended that when you wash your hands for at least 15 to 20 seconds.
What should I do if I get sick?If you live in areas where swine influenza cases have been identified and become ill with influenza-like symptoms, including fever, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, or vomiting or diarrhea, you may want to contact your health care provider, particularly if you are worried about your symptoms. Your health care provider will determine whether influenza testing or treatment is needed.
If you are sick, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people as much as possible to keep from spreading your illness to others.
In children, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
§ Fast breathing or trouble breathing
§ Bluish skin color
§ Not drinking enough fluids
§ Not waking up or not interacting
§ Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
§ Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
§ Fever with a rash
In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
§ Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
§ Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
§ Sudden dizziness
§ Severe or persistent vomiting
Can I get swine influenza 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.
Where can I get more information and updates about the swine flu?
Contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348, 24 Hours a day or log on to www.cdc.gov/swineflu/general_info.htm.
Additional Resources include Health & Human Services – http://www.hhs.gov/ and the World Health Organization - www.who.int/en