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. Swine flu viruses have been reported to spread from person-to-person, but in the past, this transmission was limited had not been sustained beyond three people. It has surpassed that now and has passed from human to human in more than two countries which has caused the WHO* to increase the threat level to 5.
*The WHO (World Health Organisation) has defined stages in the progression of a pandemic. We are currently at Phase 6 of 6 phases (a pandemic is confirmed at Phase Six).
Is this swine flu virus contagious?
Swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is contagious and is spreading easily from human to human.
What are the signs and symptoms of swine flu in people?
The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of common human flu. Symptoms of swine flu in people & include:
• sore throat
• body aches/sore limbs
Some people have reported loss of appetite, diarrhoea & vomiting associated with swine flu.
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. People may also 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 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 7 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?
• Wash your hands (regularly and with great care)
• Try to stay in good health - assess your current health and monitor any changes closely
• Get plenty of sleep
• Be physically active
• Manage your stress
• Drink plenty of fluids
• Eat nutritious food
• Try 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. Tamiflu is used 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 2 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.
NHS 24: 08454 24 24 24
What surfaces are most likely to be sources of contamination?
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 2 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. Take these everyday steps to protect your health:
• 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, you should 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 the virus through coughing or sneezing?
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.
NHS 24: 08454 24 24 24
What is the best technique for washing my hands to avoid getting the flu?
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. Wash with soap and water. or clean with alcohol-based hand cleaner. We recommend that when you wash your hands -- with soap and warm water -- that you wash for 15 to 20 seconds. When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used. You can find them in most supermarkets and drugstores. If using gel, rub your hands until the gel is dry. The gel doesn't need water to work; the alcohol in it kills the germs on your hands.
What should I do if I get sick?
If you become ill with influenza-like symptoms, including fever, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, or vomiting or diarrhoea, you may want to contact NHS 24 on 08454 242424, particularly if you are worried about your symptoms. They will determine whether influenza testing or treatment is needed - the treatment and ways of diagnosis can vary from region to region. www.direct.gov.uk/swineflu
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 – it is recommended that instead of going straight to the doctor and possibly infecting others that you would call NHS 24 and follow their advice. However If you become ill and experience any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care.
In children emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
• Fast breathing or trouble breathing
• Bluish skin colour
• 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
NHS 24: 08454 24 24 24
How serious is swine flu infection?
Like seasonal flu, swine flu in humans can vary in severity from mild to severe. Between 2005 until January 2009, 12 human cases of swine flu were detected in the U.S. with no deaths occurring. However, as we have seen in the numbers of deaths in the UK and across the world so far this time swine flu infection can be serious particularly if it is not treated early enough or if any other complications are present.
One of the ways to lessen the symptoms of pandemic flu is to treat infected people with antiviral medicines, which have been used against the current swine flu. The UK has stocks of these medicines and there is enough to treat up to half the population should they become ill during this pandemic.
Antivirals will help to:
• reduce the length of time you are ill by around one day,
• relieve some of the symptoms, and
• reduce the potential for serious complications such as pneumonia.
Antivirals will not cure you, but they lessen the symptoms and help you to recover.
Can I get swine influenza from eating or preparing pork?
No. Swine influenza viruses are not believed to be spread by food. You cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.
NHS 24: 08454 24 24 24