Advisory : Info Sheet on “Swine Flu” - Influenza A (H1N1)

What is Influenza A (H1N1)?

§  Influenza A(H1N1) is caused by a novel virus that resulted from the reassortment of 4 viruses from pigs, human and birds

§   It is a new virus causing illness in people

§  It was first detected in people in April 2009 in the United States

§  This virus is spreading from person-to-person, probably in much the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread

§   There is no vaccine yet to protect humans from this virus

§   There are existing and recommended medicines that are effective in treating these influenza A(H1N1)

§  Influenza A(H1N1) can be fatal to humans due to severe respiratory distress (pneumonia)

Why this new Influenza A(H1N1) virus is sometimes called “swine flu”?

This virus was originally referred to as “swine flu” because laboratory tests showed that many of the genes in this new virus were very similar to influenza viruses that normally occur in pigs in North America. But further study has shown that this new virus is very different from what normally circulates in North American pigs. It has two genes from flu viruses that normally circulate in pigs in Europe and Asia and avian genes and human genes. Scientists call this a “quadruple reassortant” virus.

Do pigs carry this virus and can people catch this virus from a pig?

At this time, there is no evidence that swine in the United States are infected with this new virus. However, there are flu viruses that commonly cause outbreaks of illness in pigs. Most of the time, these viruses do not infect people, but influenza viruses can spread back and forth between pigs and people.

Are there human infections with this virus?

Yes. Cases of human infection with this virus were first confirmed in the U.S. in Southern California and near Guadalupe Country, Texas. The outbreak intensified rapidly from that time and more and more states have been reporting cases of illness from this virus. Other countries with confirmed cases include Mexico, United States, Canada, Australia, Austria, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, China (Mainland China, Hongkong), Portugal, Poland, Guatemala, Spain, Costa Rica, Colombia, Denmark, El Salvador, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Brazil, Argentina, Panama.

Is this new virus contagious?

Yes, Influenza A(H1N1) virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. However, at this time, it is not known how easily the virus spreads between people.

What are the signs and symptoms of this virus in humans?

•       Similar to the symptoms of regular flu such as:
• Fever 
• Headache
• Fatigue
• Muscle or joint pains
• Lack of appetite
• Runny nose
• Sore throat
• Cough

•       Some cases have reported diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

How severe is illness associated with this virus?

It is not known at this time how severe this virus will be in the general population. Experts are studying the medical histories of people who have been infected with this virus to determine whether some people may be at greater risk from infection, serious illness, or hospitalization from the virus.

How does Influenza A(H1N1) virus spread?

•       Coughing or sneezing by people with influenza

•       Touching things with flu viruses on it and then touching one’s mouth, nose or eyes

Can I get infected with Influenza A(H1N1) from eating or preparing pork?

•       No, you can’t get influenza A(H1N1) by eating properly handled and thorough cooked pork and pork products

•       The virus is killed by cooking temperatures of 160 F/70 C.

What is the incubation period?

•       7 to 10 days from the time of exposure to the first onset of signs and symptoms

How long can an infected person spread Influenza A(H1N1) to others?

•       Infected person maybe contagious from one day before they develop symptoms to up to 7 days after they get sick. Children might potentially be contagious for longer periods.

Are there medicines to treat infection with AH1N1?

Yes. Oseltamivirr or zanamivir are the recommended drugs to treat and or prevent infection with this virus. You have to consult a doctor before using these drugs to avoid resistance.

Is vaccine available to protect people from getting infected with AH1N1?

No, at present there is no vaccine against this virus.

How can we prevent the spread of the virus?

1. Observe proper personal hygiene:

• Cover  your  nose and mouth when coughing or  sneezing

• Wash hands regularly with soap and water, at least for 20 seconds (or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers) especially after handling patients and specimen, before and after eating, after using the toilet and as necessary.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

2.  Increase your body’s resistance

•       Have at least  8 hours of  sleep

•       Be physically active

•       Manage your stress

•       Drink plenty of fluids

•       Eat  nutritious food, especially fruits and vegetables

3. Social distancing.

•       Avoid crowded places.

•       Avoid close contact with sick people.

•       Stay home if you are sick until you are free from symptoms to prevent the spread of the virus.

What to do if somebody gets sick?

• If there is flu like symptoms, consult the doctor immediately.
• Report to the proper health authorities .

Is there a pandemic risk on Influenza A(H1N1)?

Yes. If the Influenza A(H1N1) establishes efficient and sustained human-to-human transmission then it can cause an influenza pandemic. The impact of a pandemic is difficult to predict. It depends on virulence of the virus, existing immunity among people, cross protection by antibodies acquired from seasonal influenza infection and host factors.