Some facts about Swine flu

May 31st, 2009  |  Published in General Awareness, Health

Swine Influenza, the latest disease to spread panic amongst people, can be described as respiratory disease of pigs. Popularly known as swine flu, it is caused by type-A influenza virus and is characterized by high levels of illness in pigs. However, the disease does not result in too many deaths, in other words it has a low mortality rate. While swine influenza might hit the pigs, and cause an outbreak, at any time during the year, it is more commonly seen during the late fall and winter months.

Information about Swine Influenza:

  • There are four main subtypes of influenza type A virus (which causes swine flu) isolated in pigs till date – H1N1, H1N2, H3N2, and H3N1. Of all these, H1N1 is the one that has been found in most of the recently isolated influenza viruses.
  • The H1N1 virus, which is responsible for the current outbreak of swine flu in humans, contains genetic elements from North American swine flu, North American avian (bird) flu as well as the human and swine flu strains normally found in Asia and Europe.
  • The current strain of swine flu in humans is leading to the same symptoms as seen in case of seasonal flu – fever, coughing, muscle aches and extreme tiredness. Apart from that, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea might also be experienced.
  • The Spanish flu of 1918-19, which resulted in as many as 50 million deaths and was touted to be the most fatal flu pandemic of the 20th century, was caused by a swine flu strain only.
  • In humans, swine influenza is caused by a direct exposure to the pigs, though the chances of contracting it are extremely less. However, the flu can easily spread from one person to the other, say through coughing or sneezing.
  • Till December 2005, the Center For Disease Control & Prevention (USA) reported approximately one human swine influenza virus infection every one to two years. However, the period from December 2005 to February 2009 saw 12 people being infected with the virus.
  • You do not contract swine influenza by eating pork or pork products. If pork and pork products have been handled and cooked properly, there is no risk of catching the flu, because the temperature of 160°F kills the swine flu virus just like it does other bacteria and viruses.
  • In pigs, the signs of swine flu include sudden onset of fever, depression, coughing (barking), discharge from the nose or eyes, sneezing, breathing difficulties, eye redness or inflammation, and going off feed.
  • While there are vaccines for saving pigs from being infected by swine influenza, the same cannot be said for humans. However, now, researches have started being undertaken by various countries, for the purpose of making swine influenza vaccines for humans as well.


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