Our local PCT has just circulated the following information about the impending swine flu epidemic/pandemic?:
“A major public information campaign is underway including blanket coverage on all TV, radio, news channels. This will be supported with a TV campaign that starts today and every household in Heart of Birmingham PCT will have an information leaflet put through the door next Tuesday organised nationally. We have in addition printed some extra leaflets which will be distributed across Heart of Birmingham in the next 24 hours in time for the weekend. Every household will have a leaflet so this is to cover those that are missed out for whatever reason. The swine flu leaflet will be on our website shortly.
Public information – Swine Flu Information Line on 0800 1 513513
The following websites give more information:
Swine Flu Q&A – 28 April 2009
What is Swine flu?
Swine influenza is an acute viral infection of the respiratory tract in pigs. The mortality in pigs is low and recovery usually occurs within 7-10 days. Swine influenza viruses have also been detected in wild birds, poultry, horses and humans, but interspecies transmission is considered a rare event.
Swine influenza is rare in people and there have been no cases detected in the UK for over ten years. Where cases have been seen in the rest of the world these have sometimes been linked to contact with pigs but often no link is ever discovered. In the US there is an active swine influenza surveillance programme to monitor pig viruses as they see more diversity in viruses than in any other country.
Why is it affecting humans?
Infection with swine influenza virus has been detected occasionally in humans since the 1950s and human disease is usually clinically similar to disease caused by infections with human influenza viruses. Cases of swine influenza in humans usually occur after a history of exposure to pigs, i.e. direct or close contact with infected pigs. Person-to-person transmission, as suspected in the cases currently under investigation in the US and Mexico, has been previously reported but appears to be rare. Through the regular seasonal influenza surveillance that is done in Europe, a single case was reported in November 2008 in Spain, with mild symptoms.
Can people catch swine flu from eating pork?
No. Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food. You can not get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160°F kills the swine flu virus as it does other bacteria and viruses.
What are the symptoms of swine flu in humans?
The symptoms of swine flu in people are expected to be similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal influenza and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
What treatment is available?
Antiviral drugs are available to treat influenza. They reduce the length of symptoms and usually their severity. Testing has shown that the human swine influenza H1N1 can be treated with the antiviral oseltamavir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza).
What measures can I take to prevent infection?
General infection control practices and good respiratory hand hygiene can help to reduce transmission of all viruses, including the human swine influenza. This includes:
- Covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, using a tissue when possible.
- Disposing of dirty tissues promptly and carefully.
- Maintaining good basic hygiene, for example washing hands frequently with soap and water to reduce the spread of the virus from your hands to face or to other people.
- Cleaning hard surfaces (e.g. door handles) frequently using a normal cleaning product.
- Making sure your children follow this advice.
Is this the next influenza pandemic?
It is too early to say whether the cases in Mexico and the US will lead to a larger outbreak or could represent the appearance of potential pandemic strain of influenza virus.
There is currently insufficient evidence to understand the extent to which cases in Mexico and the US are firmly linked or to make a complete assessment of the health implications of this new virus.
The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) is the decision maker in terms of declaring an influenza pandemic and elevating the global stages of pandemic alert. Experts from around the world are working in close collaboration with WHO to help determine what risk this situation poses to global public health.
If someone who has been to the affected areas of Mexico and/or the U.S is feeling sick what should they do?
Anyone who has recently traveled to the affected areas and is experiencing influenza like illness should stay at home to limit contact with others, and seek medical advice from a local health professional or by contacting NHS Direct.