Swine Flu: What You Need to Know
Published 27th April 2009, 2:20pm
Swine Flu - What you need to know
Public advisory from the Ministry of Health and the Health Services Authority
What is swine flu?
Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses. Outbreaks of swine flu happen regularly in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, however an outbreak of human to human transmission of the virus (H1N1) has been detected in the Mexico, the United States and Europe.
Why is this of concern?
The World Health Organization has declared the swine flu outbreak a "public health emergency of international concern." There is the potential for this to become a pandemic.
What are the signs and symptoms of swine flu in people?
The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Severe illness (pneumonia and respiratory failure) and deaths have been reported with swine flu infection in people. Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.
How do you catch swine flu?
Spread of swine flu can occur in two ways:
- Through contact with infected pigs or environments contaminated with swine flu viruses.
- Through contact with a person with swine flu, the same way as seasonal flu through coughing or sneezing.
Is this swine flu virus contagious?
This virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. However, at this time, it not known how easily the virus spreads between people.
What should I do if I get sick?
If you become ill with influenza-like symptoms you may want to contact your Doctor, particularly if you are worried about your symptoms. Your Doctor will determine whether influenza testing or treatment is needed. However, swabs will have to be sent overseas for tests which will take at least a week. The treatment does not depend on the test results.
How long can an infected person spread swine flu to others?
People with swine influenza virus infection should be considered potentially contagious as long as they are symptomatic and possible for up to 7 days following illness onset.
Is travel recommended to the affected areas?
The World Health Organization has NOT issued a travel advisory to any of the affected areas at this time. However, persons travelling to areas with confirmed outbreaks of swine flu should be diligent in deciding their travel plans to these areas and take the necessary precautions. For further information or travel advisories please visit the Center for Disease Control or World Health Organisation websites.
What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?
There is no vaccine available right now to protect against swine flu. There are everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza.
- Avoid close contact: Avoid close contact with people who are sick with flu symptoms. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
- Cover your mouth and nose: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
- Clean your hands: Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth: Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Practice other good health habits: Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
Should we be concerned in the Cayman Islands?
With frequent travel to and from other parts of the world there is the possibility of swine flu cases in these Islands. With the World Health Organization declaring this a public health emergency of international concern, the Ministry of Health and the Health Services Authority are taking the necessary measures for early detection and control of swine flu and ensure appropriate control measures. In this regard arrangements are being made with the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre for testing of any suspected cases in the Cayman Islands.
While the Ministry of Health and the Health Services Authority will do much to prepare for any outbreak in these islands, individual action and individual responsibility are necessary for the success of any measures.
Are there medicines to treat swine flu?
Yes there are Antiviral prescription medicines that will be prescribed by physicians as necessary, to prevent serious complications. This treatment is best if started within two days of symptoms.
Can I get swine influenza from eating or preparing pork?
No. Swine influenza viruses are not spread by food. You cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.