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Swine Flu Key Facts
Source: CDC 4/27/09
What is Swine Flu?
A respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses. Like all influenza viruses, swine flu viruses change constantly. The viruses can reassort (i.e. swap genes) and new viruses that are a mix of swine, human, and/or avian influenza viruses can emerge. The virus spreads through pigs in close contact and possibly from contaminated objects moving between infected pigs and uninfected pigs.
How do humans catch swine flu?
Most commonly, humans become infected through direct exposure to pigs (pig barns, livestock exhibits-housing pigs at fairs, or workers in the swine industry). Human to human transmission of swine flu can also occur.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms are similar to human influenza including fever, lethargy, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, coughing, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause worsening of underlying chronic conditions and can vary from mild to severe.
Can people catch swine flu from eating pork?
No, swine influenza is not transmitted by food.
How does it spread among people?
It’s thought to be transmitted the same way as seasonal flu occurs-mainly through coughing or sneezing of infected people. People may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. People with swine flu should be considered potentially contagious as long as they are symptomatic and possibly for 7 days following the illness onset.
How can human infections be diagnosed?
By respiratory sample within the first 4-5 days of the illness (when an infected person is most likely to be shedding virus). However, some persons especially children may shed for up to 10 days or longer. Identification of the swine flu influenza A virus requires sending the specimen to the CDC for lab testing.
What medications are used to treat the virus?
There are 4 different antiviral drugs licensed for use in the U.S. but the most recent swine flu viruses isolated from humans are resistant to amantadine and rimantadine, so the CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir or zanamivir for treatment and/or prevention.
Are swine flu viruses the same as human viruses?
No. The swine flu viruses are different from human viruses and therefore, vaccines for the human seasonal flu would not provide protection from swine flu viruses.
Is there a vaccine for swine flu?
There are vaccines that can be given to pigs to prevent swine flu, but there is no vaccine to protect humans from swine flu.
What can you do to stay healthy?
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze.
- Use alcohol-based hand products.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth-germs spread that way.
- Avoid contact with others who are coughing or sneezing.
If you get sick, the CDC recommends you stay home to prevent infecting others.
Guidance from the CDC for Health Professionals
Consider the possibility of swine influenza infections in patients presenting with febrile respiratory illness.
If swine flu is suspected, obtain a respiratory swab for swine influenza testing and place in refrigerator (not freezer).
Contact the local health department to facilitate transport and diagnosis at a state lab.
References:
CDC Swine Flu Q & A Key Facts
CDC Swine Flu
CDC Swine Flu Guidance for Clinicians and Public Health Professionals
CDC Swine Influenza Brochure
CDC Swine Flu podcast by Dr Joe Bressee Influenza Division released 4-25-09