Swine flu – what you need to know

UPDATE: 27 July 2009

Health experts recommend 5 steps to avoid catching A/H1N1 flu

The deadly A/H1N1 flu has swept the world since its first detection in Mexico in March, now linked to more than 700 deaths and over 100,000 have been infected. Here are five steps recommended by health experts to take to help you avoid catching the virus.

Step 1: The first and most important is frequent washing of hands with soap and water or hand sanitizers, especially if you have been out in public.

Step 2: Avoid touching your mouth, eyes or nose with your hands as the moisture in these areas make them primary sites of transmission.

Step 3: Face mask may help avoid transmission of the virus if you are caring for the sick. Since flu can spread to surfaces after coughing or sneezing, sanitize these surfaces with alcohol.

Step 4: Avoid people who are sick. People with flu can remain contagious for up to ten days. This might mean just keeping distance between you and people you meet during the day, or avoiding public places altogether.

Step 5: Avoid greeting someone with a kiss or a handshake. Stay out of crowded places.

Mexico health authorities urged people to avoid hugging and kissing in public over worries about a possible global pandemic of the deadly swine flu virus.
The virus has killed at least 149 people in Mexico and possibly dozens more, prompting authorities worldwide to step up health and safety measures.

Avoid hugging and kissing in public

What is swine influenza?

It is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A strains of the influenza virus. It regularly causes high flu outbreaks in pigs but with low death rates. There are four main sub-types of the virus, but the most recent isolated influenza viruses from pigs have been H1N1 viruses.

How does it spread?

Swine flu viruses do not typically infect humans though they do occur through close proximity or contact with infected pigs or contaminated areas. Cases of human-to-human spread have been documented.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms are similar to those of regular flu:
- Fever
- Lethargy
- Runny nose
- Cough
- Sore throat
- Lack of appetite
- Vomiting and diarrhoea in some cases.

How common is swine flu infection in humans?

In the past reports of about one human swine flu virus infection had been received every one to two years in the United States. From December 2005 till February 2009, 12 cases have been reported.

Has this strain of flu been seen before?

No. Flu mutates constantly, so it is common for new strains to emerge. Pigs can also be infected with both human and avian influenza, and the current circulating swine flu strain appears to contain genetic elements from all three.

Can swine flu be treated with antiviral drugs and flu vaccine?

The swine flu is resistant to two common drugs – Amantadine and Rimantadine. The H1N1 swine flu viruses are very different from human H1N1 viruses. Therefore, vaccines for human seasonal flu would not provide protection. However, a “seed vaccine” has been specifically tailored to this swine flu and will be manufactured if officials deem it necessary.

Can people catch swine flu by eating pork?

No. Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 70ºC and above kills the swine flu virus.

How long is someone with swine flu considered contagious?

People with swine influenza virus infection should be considered potentially contagious as long as they are symptomatic; possibly for up to seven days following the onset of the illness. Children, especially younger children, might potentially be contagious for longer periods.

Face masks actually do very little to protect you from contagions. The best way to avoid contracting the virus is to wash your hands as regularly as possible after touching surfaces and objects.

What can I do to protect myself from the swine flu?

There is no vaccine available right now to protect against the swine flu.

However, you can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza by:

- Covering your nose and mouth with a disposable tissue or handkerchief when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the waste basket after you use it.

- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also helpful

- Try to avoid close contact with sick people. - If you get sick with influenza, stay at home and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

- Consult your nearest healthcare facility if you think you have any of the symptoms.

Which countries have had cases of the swine flu?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed human cases of swine flu in Mexico, the United States, Canada and Spain. Only Mexico has reported deaths from the new strain.


Swine Flu Updates



Four-year-old Edgar Hernandez (L) who has recovered from the A/H1N1 flu influenza recently, and his mother rest in a free dining room at his hometown in Veracruz state in Mexico May 2, 2009. Hernandez is the first patient who was infected by the A/H1N1 flu influenza in Mexico.

Prevention is better than cure.

The best form of prevention is to take the right precautions. Any list of precautions must include advice on how best to build immunity to tackle the virus. It is imperative to keep the body’s immune system in prime condition. A few simple inclusions in the daily diet can significantly enhance our immunity against infections like the swine flu.

Beginning the day with two cups of black tea is a good idea. A Harvard study says drinking five cups of black tea in a day enhances the T-cell activity (responsible for maintaining immunity) in the body. These cells then pump out more than the usual amount of Interferon, the virus-fighting protein. Interferon boosts from tea can also reduce the severity of an ongoing infection. Green tea works just as well, if not better. A word of caution — it is not necessary to down the five cups in one sitting!

Having oats or barley on the breakfast menu is a tried and tested way to enhance immunity. Just one serving (20 grams) of either oats or barley provides enough beta glucan, which has antimicrobial and anti oxidant properties.

UPDATE: 15 MAY 2009

Malaysia confirms first case of A(H1N1) flu

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia on Friday confirmed its first case of the A(H1N1) flu in a 21-year-old student who returned from the United States on Wednesday morning.

All the 192 passengers on the Malaysia Airlines flight MH091 from Newark on Wednesday are urged to contact the Health Ministry by calling 03-88810200 or 03-88810300

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the case made Malaysia the 36th country to be affected by the virus.


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