Sunday, 26 April 2009

Swine Flu: Q & A

The WHO has also called the outbreak of the Swine Flu virus in the States and in Mexico a "public health emergency of international concern".
So far as many as 86 deaths are suspected and 20 confirmed in Mexico, with over 1400 people ill. The United States, which has declared a public health emergency today, 20 cases of swine flu have been confirmed in 5 states, including New York (8), California (7), Kansas (2), Texas (2) and Ohio (1). Canada has now confirmed 6 cases in Nova Scotia (4) and British Columbia (2).

CTV and CBC News published great Q & A pieces and I'm including the main points below:

What is swine flu?
Just like humans get the flu, so do pigs. They get a fever, a cough, sneezing, lose their appetite.

Can humans catch swine flu from pigs?
Usually it's rare and, if it happens, it's people that deal directly with the pigs. On average, in the States, there are 4 cases documented a year.
1976 saw the last swine flu outbreak at Fort Dix, NJ among military recruits. At that time, the US vaccinated 40 million people fearing the outbreak would turn into a pandemic, but it didn't.

Can you catch swine flu from an infected person?
Yes- just like the seasonal flu is transmitted between humans.

Can you catch swine flu by eating pork?

No- the swine flu virus isn't transmitted through food.

Should we be worried about this outbreak?
This new outbreak is a bit worrisome because none of the people recently infected had any contact with pigs. The Center for Disease Control is reporting that this is a new virus that's a combination of bird, swine and human influenza.
American officials are asking people not to panic though. The emergency declaration lets the government free more money for antiviral drugs and give some previously unapproved tests and drugs to children. One-quarter of the national stockpile of 50 million courses of antiflu drugs will be released.

Dr. Allison McGeer, director of infection control at Mount Sinai Hospital told CBC News that, while the cases in Mexico sound like a large number, "in truth for influenza, that's a very small number." "You need to remember that in Canada alone, which is not that much bigger than Mexico City actually in population terms, 4,000 people die of seasonal flu every year."

If you're travelling, you may be asked if you have had the flu or a fever. Those that appear ill will be asked to step aside, given a mask and given medical care.

Is there a vaccine?
Only for pigs- none to protect humans. The flu shot will not protect you.

What are symptoms?
Similar to regular flu symptoms: fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, coughing. Some people have also reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

How to they diagnose swine flu?
A respiratory specimen is collected within 4-5 days of becoming ill and sent for testing.

Is it treatable?
Yes, with antivirals. The recent US swine flu cases seem to be resistant to 2 antivirals (amantadine, rimantadine) but are susceptible to zanamivir and Tamiflu.

What can you do?
The CDC is advising you to to wash your hands frequently, to cover coughs and sneezes, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth (that's how germs are spread) and to stay home if you feel sick.

Visit the CDC and the WHO's sites for more up-to-date info.

1 comment:

Balance, Joy and Delicias! said...

I just heard it yesterday and this post is so informative about the problem. thanks!