Swine influenza frequently asked questions by WHO

Swine influenza frequently asked questions
• What is swine influenza?
• What are the implications for human health?
• Where have human cases occurred?
• How do people become infected?
• Is it safe to eat pork meat and products?
• What about the pandemic risk?
• Is there a human vaccine to protect swine influenza?
• What drugs are available for treatment?
What is swine influenza?
Swine influenza, or “swine flu”, is a highly contagious acute respiratory disease of pigs, caused by oneof several swine influenza A viruses. Morbidity tends to be high and mortality low (1-4%). The virusis spread among pigs by aerosols, direct and indirect contact, and asymptomatic carrierpigs. Outbreaks in pigs occur year round, with an increased incidence in the fall and winter intemperate zones. Many countries routinely vaccinate swine populations against swine influenza.Swine influenza viruses are most commonly of the H1N1 subtype, but other subtypes are alsocirculating in pigs (e.g., H1N2, H3N1, H3N2). Pigs can also be infected with avian influenza viruses and human seasonal influenza viruses as well as swine influenza viruses. The H3N2 swine virus wasthought to have been originally introduced into pigs by humans. Sometimes pigs can be infected withmore than one virus type at a time, which can allow the genes from these viruses to mix. This canresult in an influenza virus containing genes from a number of sources, called a "reassortant" virus.Although swine influenza viruses are normally species specific and only infect pigs, they dosometimes cross the species barrier to cause disease in humans.

What are the implications for human health?
Outbreaks and sporadic human infection with swine influenza have been occasionally reported.Generally clinical symptoms are similar to seasonal influenza but reported clinical presentation rangesbroadly from asymptomatic infection to severe pneumonia resulting in death.Since typical clinical presentation of swine influenza infection in humans resembles seasonalinfluenza and other acute upper respiratory tract infections, most of the cases have been detected bychance through seasonal influenza surveillance. Mild or asymptomatic cases may have escaped fromrecognition; therefore the true extent of this disease among humans is unknown.Where have human cases occurred?Since the implementation of IHR(2005)1 in 2007, WHO has been notified of swine influenza casesfrom the United States and Spain.

How do people become infected?
People usually get swine influenza from infected pigs, however, some human cases lack contacthistory with pigs or environments where pigs have been located. Human-to-human transmission hasoccurred in some instances but was limited to close contacts and closed groups of people.

Is it safe to eat pork meat and pork products?
Yes. Swine influenza has not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating properlyhandled and prepared pork (pig meat) or other products derived from pigs. The swine influenza virusis killed by cooking temperatures of 160°F/70°C, corresponding to the general guidance for thepreparation of pork and other meat.

Which countries have been affected by outbreaks in pigs?
Swine influenza is not notifiable to international animal health authorities (OIE, www.oie.int),therefore its international distribution in animals is not well known. The disease is considered endemicin the United States. Outbreaks in pigs are also known to have occurred in North America, SouthAmerica, Europe (including the UK, Sweden, and Italy), Africa (Kenya), and in parts of eastern Asiaincluding China and Japan.

What about the pandemic risk?
It is likely that most of people, especially those who do not have regular contact with pigs, do not haveimmunity to swine influenza viruses that can prevent the virus infection. If a swine virus establishesefficient human-to human transmission, it can cause an influenza pandemic. The impact of a pandemiccaused by such a virus is difficult to predict: it depends on virulence of the virus, existing immunityamong people, cross protection by antibodies acquired from seasonal influenza infection and hostfactors.

Is there a human vaccine to protect from swine influenza?
There are no vaccines that contain the current swine influenza virus causing illness in humans. It is notknown whether current human seasonal influenza vaccines can provide any protection. Influenzaviruses change very quickly. It is important to develop a vaccine against the currently circulating virusstrain for it to provide maximum protection to the vaccinated people. This is why WHO needs accessto as many viruses as possible in order to select the most appropriate candidate vaccine virus.

What drugs are available for treatment?

1 International Health Regulation (2005) http://www.who.int/ihr/about/en/Antiviral drugs for seasonal influenza are available in some countries and effectively prevent and treatthe illness. There are two classes of such medicines, 1) adamantanes (amantadine and remantadine),and 2) inhibitors of influenza neuraminidase (oseltamivir and zanamivir).Most of the previously reported swine influenza cases recovered fully from the disease withoutrequiring medical attention and without antiviral medicines.Some influenza viruses develop resistance to the antiviral medicines, limiting the effectiveness ofchemoprophylaxis and treatment. The viruses obtained from the recent human cases with swineinfluenza in the United States were sensitive to oselatmivir and zanamivir but resistant to amantadineand remantadine.Information is insufficient to make recommendation on the use of the antivirals in prevention andtreatment of swine influenza virus infection. Clinicians have to make decisions based on the clinicaland epidemiological assessment and harms and benefit of the prophylaxis/treatment of the patient2.For the ongoing outbreak of the swine influenza infection in the United States and Mexico, thenational and the local authorities are recommending to use oseltamivir or zanamivir for treatment andprevention of the disease based on the virus’s susceptibility profile.2 For benefits and harms of influenza-specific antivirals, see
http://www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/guidelines/pharmamanagement/en/index.html

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed an outbreak of human swine influenza

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed an outbreak of human swine influenza in Mexico, United States and Canada. The local health authorities in these countries have confirmed human infections with a new strain of influenza, swine flu (AH1N1), and about 80 people have died in Mexico. Suspected cases are still under investigation in New Zealand, France, Spain and Israel. This virus has the potential to cause a pandemic outbreak. Fortunately, the virus has not reached India and all travellers coming from UK, US, Canada, Mexico, France and New Zealand are being screened at the airports.
The symptoms of swine flu in humans are expected to be similar to the symptoms of human seasonal flu and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu have also reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Please make a note of the following and seek medical advise promptly, should any of the symptoms appear.
Keep hands clean and wash hands properly. Alcohol based hand rub is also effective when hands are not visibly soiled.
Avoid touching, eyes, nose or mouth.
Wash hands with liquid soap promptly if they are contaminated by the respiratory tract secretions, e.g. after sneezing
or coughing.
Cover nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing and dispose of nasal and mouth discharge properly.
Always wrap nasal and mouth discharges with tissue paper and dispose of the tissue paper properly in lidded rubbish bin.
Wear surgical mask when symptoms of respiratory tract infection or fever develop and seek medical advice promptly.
Refrain from work or school if you develop symptoms of influenza.

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