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Swine Flu Round-Up

Out of nowhere, swine flu has become a major health concern.  The World Health Organization has called the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern,” and has raised its pandemic alert level in response to the recent outbreak.  The U.S. government has advised against nonessential travel to Mexico, a country that has been hit hard with swine flu.  Similarly, the European Union’s health commissioner has advised against travel to both the United States and Mexico, where most of the reported infections have originated.

Swine flu is getting much attention from health officials and the media, but what information do you need to know about this virus outbreak?

What is swine flu?
Swine flu is a respiratory disease in pigs caused by type A influenza virus that leads to outbreaks of influenza in pigs, and causes high levels of illness and low death rates in pigs.  Most outbreaks occur during late fall and winter months, just like the human flu season.

Why is the swine flu infecting humans?
Swine flu does not usually infect humans.  The infections that have occurred in the past have mainly been in people who have had direct exposure to pigs.  Pigs can carry human influenza viruses, which then can mutate into new strains of the influenza virus that easily infect humans, which is what we are seeing with the current outbreak.

How do you get swine flu?

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Just like human influenza, swine flu it transmitted from person to person quite easily.  Sneezing and coughing are ways the virus is transmitted.  Touching mouth, eyes, or nose after touching something with the flu virus on it is all it takes to become infected.

Can pork be contaminated with swine flu?
Swine flu viruses are not transmitted by eating pork products, as long as they are cooked properly.

What are the symptoms of swine flu?
Swine flu symptoms are similar to those of the common flu: Runny nose, fever, coughing, sore throat, lack of appetite, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.

Are there medicines to treat swine flu?
The Centers for Disease Control recommends the antiviral drug Tamiflu (oseltamivir) for treating and/or preventing swine flu.

What can be done to prevent swine flu?
Washing your hands often with soap can help prevent contracting and/or spreading the swine flu virus.  You should avoid touching your mouth, eyes, and nose.  Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough.

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