Transmission of swine influenza virus from pigs to humans is not common and does not always cause human influenza, often only resulting in the production of antibodies in the blood. The meat of the animal poses no risk of transmitting the virus when properly cooked. If transmission does cause human influenza, it is called zoonotic swine flu. People who work with pigs, especially people with intense exposures, are at increased risk of catching swine flu. In the mid-20th century, identification of influenza subtypes became possible, this allows accurate diagnosis of transmission to humans. Since then, fifty confirmed transmissions have been recorded, Rarely, these strains of swine flu can pass from human to human.
In humans, the symptoms of swine flu are similar to those of influenza and of influenza-like illness in general, namely chills, fever, sore throat, muscle pains, severe headache, coughing, weakness and general discomfort.
The H1N1 Swine Flu virus mutated from pigs, and at some point was transmitted to humans with the possibility that the virus is a mixture of avian, swine and human viruses
Cases of H1N1 Swine flu in humans have been identified in Southern California and Texas, similar to the strains found in Mexico. Otherwise healthy young adults make up the majority of the cases in Mexico, where the outbreak was first identified starting March 18th, 2009.
Unusual age groups affected by this new virus, in addition to outbreaks in multiple communities and the fact that humans are contracting an animal influence virus has raised the level of concern at the World Health Organization. WHO is working with US, Mexican and Canadian health authorities to indentify the risks of this new swine flu.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, none of the U.S. flu cases had contact with pigs, and they believe it spreads human to human. They are working with local and state agencies on reported human swine flu infections. The cases were identified in March and April 2009.
Although Swine Influenza A/H1N1 viruses is a newly identified flu virus in both humans and pigs, it's possible that it's been around but only just now identified because of improved lab testing and changes to disease surveillance.
12 Cases of swine flu in humans were identified in the U.S. between 2005 and January 2009. No deaths occurred from swine flu during this time.
Q: What is swine flu, and how do humans catch it?
A: Swine flu is a highly contagious respiratory disease normally found in pigs. People usually become infected through contact with pigs, but this new virus has mutated enough to allow human-to-human transmission.
Q: What are the symptoms?
A: Fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some patients also report experiencing a runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Q: How many people have died from swine flu?
A: 149, all in Mexico, 20 confirmed as swine flu and rest suspected.
Q: How many people have been diagnosed with swine flu in the United States? Elsewhere?
A: 28 in New York, eight in California, two in Kansas, two in Texas and one in Ohio.
Elsewhere: One confirmed in Canada; two confirmed in Scotland and seven suspected; at least 10 suspected in New Zealand; one confirmed and 17 suspected in Spain; one suspected in France; one suspected in Israel.
Q: Should I be tested for swine flu?
A: Knowing you have swine flu will not afect the treatment you receive, but testing certain affected people can help health authorities track the spread of the disease. The Health Department recommends testing only when people experience severe symptoms or fall sick in clusters.
Q: I'm feeling fine. Should I be doing anything?
A: Wash your hands more than usual to protect against catching the flu virus. Make a contingency plan in case the outbreak worsens and your child's school closes.
Q: If I feel flu-ish, what should I do?
A: Check with your doctor, who will likely prescribe an anti-viral medicine like Tamiflu or Relenza. (You probably have a regular flu, or just a cold.) Don't go to work or school, just in case. Stay off public transportation and don't sneeze on people.
Q: Is there a vaccine?
A: No. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working to develop one, in case it is needed.
Q: Should I stop eating bacon?
A: No. You cannot get the flu from eating pork products of any kind.
Q: How worried should I be?
A: So far, deaths from swine flu have been reported only in Mexico - and the cases in New York have been very mild. Health officials worry the outbreak will get worse, but the summer is almost here, which will retard flu transmission.