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Monday, April 27, 2009

Swine (Pig) Influenza and You



A swine flu outbreak that appears to have caused fatalities in humans in Mexico and nonfatal cases in the United States prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) this weekend to urge countries around the world to be alert for suspicious cases of influenza.

WHO Chief Margaret Chan says the global body is taking the outbreak very seriously, though comparisons with the 1918 epidemic are premature.

Here are some facts about swine flu :

What is swine flu ?

Swine flu is a highly contagious acute respiratory disease normally found in pigs. It spreads through tiny particles in the air or by direct contact. According to WHO it tends to infect large numbers of a given pig population, killing between 1 and 4 percent of those affected. Not every animal infected displays symptoms.

Where do outbreaks occur ?

Swine flu is considered endemic in the United States, and outbreaks in pigs have also been reported elsewhere in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and parts of eastern Asia.

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. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. In the past, 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 high is the risk of a pandemic ?

Since the swine flu outbreaks in Mexico and U.S. Were identified, the risk of a pandemic has increased. Health officials worry the swine flu might develop into a form easily spread among humans. To do this, it could combine with a human flu virus or mutate on its own into a transmissible form. Experts worry that the more the virus circulates, the more likely a pandemic strain will emerge. But there is no way to predict when a pandemic strain will develop.

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. Human-to-human spread of swine flu has been documented also and is thought to occur in the same way as seasonal flu. Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.

Are there medicines to treat swine flu ?

Yes. The use of oseltamivir or zanamivir has been recommended for the treatment and/or prevention of infection with these swine influenza viruses. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaler) that fight against the flu by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in your body. If you get sick, antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious flu complications. For treatment, antiviral drugs work best if started soon after getting sick (within 2 days of symptoms).

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. Children, especially younger children, might potentially be contagious for longer periods.

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. Take these everyday steps to protect your health:

· Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

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

· Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

· If you get sick with influenza, it is recommended that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

What should I do if I get sick ?

If you are sick, you should contact your Health Care Centre for consultation. Stay home and avoid contact with other people as much as possible to keep from spreading your illness to others.

If you become ill and experience any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care.

In children emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

· Fast breathing or trouble breathing

· Bluish skin color

· Not drinking enough fluids

· Not waking up or not interacting

· Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held

· Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

· Fever with a rash

In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include :

· Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

· Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen

· Sudden dizziness

· Confusion

· Severe or persistent vomiting

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.

Thank you & Best Regards,

Dr. Khawla Al Haddad
Manager-Environment & Health Compliance
Dubai Maritime City
Tel. +971 4 3455545
Fax +971 4 3452234
www.dubaimaritimecity.ae
khawla.alhaddad@dubaimaritimecity.ae

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