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Swine flu

Swine influenza is a contagious respiratory disease that normally affects only pigs.

How to protect your family from swine flu 

What is swine flu and influenza A (H1N1)? 

Swine influenza is a contagious respiratory disease that normally affects only pigs. It is usually caused by H1N1 strains of the swine influenza A virus. However, other strains such as H1N2, H3N1 and H3N2 are also present in pigs. Although it is not common for people to get swine flu, human infections do occur sometimes, mainly after close contact with infected pigs.

During March/April 2009, a new strain of swine influenza virus emerged in Mexico, and began to cause disease in humans. The World Health Organization says that this new strain of influenza, called Influenza A (H1N1), can spread from person to person. Experts around the world are working closely with the World Health Organization to determine what dangers the virus poses to the public. It is also thought that this new strain could cause a human flu pandemic.

How is swine flu spread between pigs? 

Pig can get swine flu if they inhale respiratory droplets from an infected pig. They can also be infected through direct or indirect contact with an infected pig.

What are the symptoms of infected pigs? 

Symptoms of swine flu in pigs can be lethargy, fever, cough and difficulty in breathing. Some infected pigs (about 1 to 4%) may die, but most pigs recover rapidly.

Which countries have infected pigs? 

Swine influenza is present in all pig producing countries around the world. In pigs it spreads throughout the year. However, many countries routinely vaccinate pigs for swine influenza.

Are there any special precautions to be taken when handling pigs? 

Although there is no indication that current human infections are linked to cases of swine flu in pigs, officials recommend that pig keepers maintain high levels of hygiene. Pig keepers check for any unusual signs of respiratory disease in their pigs and contact their veterinary surgeon if they are concerned or require any advice on the safety of pigs.

Which countries/states have human cases of influenza A (H1N1)? 

During March/April 2009, Mexico reported an increase in the number of people with severe respiratory infections. Human infection with influenza A (H1N1) has been confirmed in Southern California and Texas. Since then, the World Health Organization has reported confirmed human cases of influenza A (H1N1) in several countries around the world, including the UK.

Incidence in India has been highest in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013 in 2015, swine flu cases have increased especially during January-February and currently reports are also being received from the states of mainly Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab Delhi, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

What are the symptoms of influenza A (H1N1) in humans? 

When people are infected with the swine flu virus, their symptoms are usually similar to those of seasonal influenza. These include fever, fatigue, and loss of appetite, cough, and sore throat. Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea. Some people infected with influenza A (H1N1) developed severe disease and died. However, in many cases the symptoms of influenza A (H1N1) have been mild and most people made a full recovery also.

How does influenza A (H1N1) spread between people?

This new influenza virus spreads in the same way as the seasonal flu; In the form of small droplets, from the nose and mouth of an infected person when they talk, cough or sneeze. People can become infected if they inhale these droplets and touch someone or something that has been contaminated with the virus (for example a used tissue or door handle) and then touch their eyes and nose. People can become infected if they inhale these droplets or touch their nose or eyes if they touch someone or something that is contaminated with the virus (e.g. a used tissue or door handle).

Is there a vaccine to protect people from influenza A (H1N1)?

A seasonal flu shot will help protect against two or three types of influenza viruses, including the H1N1 virus. The vaccine is available as an injection or a nasal spray. Consult your doctor for that.

Is treatment available? 

Some antiviral medicines, such as Tamiflu, are available from your GP. This reduces disease and reduces the risk of complications. These drugs may cause side effects and may not be appropriate for everyone, so your GP will only recommend them if the risks do not outweigh the benefits.

What precautions do I need to take to help myself and protect my family? 

Cleanliness and hygiene can help reduce the spread of a wide range of viruses, including the influenza virus.

The Health Protection Agency recommends that everyone follow these precautions at all times: 

  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water
  • When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, if possible.
  • Dispose-off the used tissue promptly and carefully. Put them in a bag then throw them in a container.
  • Regularly clean hard surfaces (eg door handles) and keep them clean.
  • Make sure children follow this advice.

If you intend to travel to an affected country/state, you should heed the advice provided by the local tourism offices.

How does washing my hands protect me? 

Washing your hands regularly is the best way to protect yourself from a wide range of illnesses, including influenza. Every time you touch something, germs can get on your hands. Touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands can transfer germs from your hands to your body. While washing your hands regularly helps you remove germs and prevent them from spreading to you and other people, you can avoid one more wide range of infections.

How do I remove the flu virus from surfaces? 

Infected individuals can spread germs to surrounding surfaces when they cough or sneeze, or touch them with their dirty hands or with a used tissue. Regular cleaning of surfaces can help prevent infection with influenza virus and other germs in your home, you and others.

Cleaning surfaces with detergent and water can remove germs from an object, as long as you rinse all surfaces thoroughly with clean water. However, where scrubbing is not possible (such as large or fixed surfaces, kitchen worktops, toilet flushes and door handles, etc.) it is important to use a disinfectant to help kill germs. It is especially important to clean and disinfect surfaces that people frequently touch with their hands:

  • handles and switches,
  • faucets and toilet flush handles,
  • kitchen worktops,
  • telephone receivers,
  • computer keyboards

Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces using such products that assure to destroy the influenza virus.

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Is it safe to consume pork and other foods made from pigs? 

Eating properly handled and prepared pork or other foods derived from pigs (eg bacon, sausage) does not cause influenza. However, good food hygiene helps prevent a wide range of infections, so it is important that food is always prepared hygienically.

  • Influenza cannot be caused by eating properly handled and prepared pork or other foods derived from pigs (such as bacon, sausage). However, good food hygiene helps prevent a wide range of infections, so it is important that food is always prepared hygienically.
  • Keep away the raw meat from cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
  • Use a separate chopping board and knife to prepare the raw meat.
  • Wash your hands immediately after handling the raw meat.
  • Clean and disinfect utensils and surfaces immediately after contact with raw meat.

What should someone do if they develop flu symptoms? 

If you live in or have recently started living in an area that is affected by influenza A (H1N1), and are experiencing flu-like symptoms, you should stay home to limit contact with others and you should call your doctor for advice.

Is this the start of a human flu pandemic? 

Influenza A (H1N1) virus can spread from person to person, and causes flu outbreaks in some countries, although it has also been suggested that this particular virus will soon cause a global human pandemic. The World Health Organization is monitoring the situation.

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