The swine flu (H1N1) virus is the latest global epidemic or pandemic the world is facing. It is a new strain of virus that is contagious and is spreading from human to human. What is worrisome about this worldwide epidemic is that it is caused by a new virus which the population lacks immunity towards.
The outbreak of the swine flu (H1N1) virus was first heard of when a significant number of people in Mexico began falling ill with flu-like symptoms. Very quickly, reports of other suspected cases began trickling in from the United States of America and other countries. On April 24, 2009, the virus responsible was clinically identified as a new strain. Presently, one or more confirmed cases have been reported in Canada, United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, New Zealand, France, Israel, South Korea, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Austria, Denmark and Netherlands.
Countries with suspected cases are Brazil, Guatemala, Peru, Australia, South Korea, and seven EU states. With more countries joining this list everyday, the WHO has raised its pandemic alert phase to “Phase 5” (Human-to-human transmission in at least two countries. Strong signal pandemic imminent). The WHO is working on developing a vaccine, which it reports will take 4 to 6 months to manufacture. According to reports on April 28, 2009, Mexico raised the number of probable deaths to 152, with 1,614 suspected sufferers under observation. As of now, only one death has been reported in the United States of America.
Swine flu is a respiratory disease that affects pigs. It is caused by type A influenza viruses or H1N1 virus, and is fairly common among pigs. Though it was very rare, few cases of people being infected with swine flu were reported in the past. However, in these cases, the virus did not spread and sustain beyond three people.
How do People get Infected with Swine Flu?
Swine flu is now being transmitted from one infected human to another. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, infected fluids land on the hands, drops onto surfaces or are dispersed into the air. Another person who breathes this contaminated air, makes contact with the infected person’s hands or infected surfaces is exposed to the virus.
Signs and Symptoms of Swine Flu?
The symptoms of swine flu are the same are regular human flu, and can often be mistaken for the same. They include cough, headache, muscle and joint pain, sore throat and running nose, and sometimes vomiting or diarrhea.
At this point of time, the best way to deal with the illness is to employ caution and reduce your chances of contracting it. One must try to avoid close contact with people who have flu symptoms such as a cough or fever, or generally appear ill. Wash your hands with soap and water often. Living a healthy lifestyle is also a key component of prevention. This includes eating wholesome nutritious food, exercising regularly and sleeping sufficiently.
If you find yourself feeling ill with a sore throat, cough or fever, you are recommended to stay at home, rest and consume plenty of fluids. Use disposable tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze and cough, and dispose of it immediately after use. Wash your hands with soap and water often. It is very important that you avoid contact with people, but inform your family and friends about your condition.
If you need to visit your doctor or health care provider, try to contact them and tell them about your symptoms before making the visit. If that is not possible, inform someone at the hospital or clinic as soon as you arrive there. An additional piece of information is that you are not required to wear a face mask unless you are ill.
Course of Treatment
The WHO has reported that the viruses obtained from the human cases with swine influenza in the United States have shown sensitivity to oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) but are resistant to amantadine and rimantadine. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the use of oseltamivir or zanamivir for the prevention and treatment of the new strain.
Doctors may also prescribe other antiviral drugs (pills, liquid or an inhaler) that fight against the flu by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in your body. Though these are not the cure, they lessen the symptoms if administered at an early stage and provides one with a better chance of recovery. They also help to ease the discomfort that the patient faces, and reduce the chances of serious complications such as pneumonia.
Is it Safe to Eat Pork?
It is safe to eat properly handled and prepared pork (pig meat). The influenza A(H1N1) virus is killed by cooking temperatures of 160 °F / 70 °C and above.
The current situation is rapidly evolving. New information is constantly coming to light. It is best to follow guidelines being disseminated by the medical authorities in your country regarding Swine Flu, its causes, symptoms and treatment.