What is swine flu?

Swine flu is a highly contagious respiratory disease of swine, caused by the never-before-seen version of the H1N1 strain of influenza type A, which infect and are endemic (commonly present) in pigs.  Flu viruses mutate over time and cause many and ever changing types of infection such as the changes seen in the common seasonal flu each year.


What is a pandemic?

A pandemic is a worldwide outbreak of infectious disease that spreads through human populations.  Some experts claim thatthe swine flu might develop into a pandemic that could kill over 120 million people around the globe and that four in ten Britons could catch swine flu if it becomes a full blown pandemic.Professor Neil Ferguson, a member of the World Health Organisation taskforce said figures would drop as Britain headed into the summer but could soar again once autumn arrives. The good news from Mexico is that people given antiviral, like Tamiflu, seem to recover early enough.  You can take precautions to avoid swine flu or any flu – see the prevention section below 


What does threat level 5 mean?

The World Health Organization raised the pandemic threat from level 4 to 5 on the 29th of April 2009, based on theassessment of available information and expert consultations.  This level of threat refers to the level of precautions and counteractive measures the health authorities need to make.  Phase five indicates that the disease is able to multiply easily between humans and is a strong signal that a pandemic is looming.  All countries should immediately activate their pandemic preparedness plans.  This could include travel restrictions and trade limitations.


A full scale pandemic is declared when level 6 is reached.  This is a full-blown pandemic, characterized by outbreaks in at least two regions of the world


How is Swine Flu different?

The latest swine flu is different in that it contains a genetic material – typically found in strains of the virus that affect humans,birds and swine.  It is unique because it is a rare combination of genes from different pigs.


How is it spread?

Because flu can live on a hard surface for up to 24 hours, humans can contract swine flu, usually if they have been in close contact with pigs, from coughing or sneezing, touching and spreading the virus from infected areas.  Wearing a mask could prevent the spread of the virus but masks have been advised not to be fully effective.  London has been warned as the main area of risk in the UK as the tube and other forms of public transport where large numbers of people are closely confined make the contamination risk high



Symptoms include fever, coughing, sneezing, sore throat, body aches, chills, fatigue – similar to seasonal flu, which kills 250 000 to 500 000 people per year.  Further symptoms associated with the Swine flu has been reported as vomiting, diarrhoea and limb aches and pains.



Avoid close contact with people that appear unwell

You can reduce (not eliminate) the risk of catching / spreading the swine flu by cleaning all surfaces and door handles, washing your hands frequently and maintaining good personal hygiene

The foreign office is advising against all but essential travel to Mexico


What should I do if I think I have it?

After infection it takes less than 48 hours for symptoms to start, at which point people are most infectious

Ensure that you have a circle of friends who can help supply you with medicine, food and other supplies in the event of contracting swine flu.  Staying in will prevent you from spreading the flu to others.

The UK has enough antiviral to treat half the population if they were to become ill:  Tamiflu or Relenza will lesson thesymptoms and help you to recover.  Relenza is an inhalant, mostly prescribed for pregnant woman and people with kidney conditions, unable to take Tamiflu

Catch airborne viruses from coughs / sneezes in tissue and throw it away immediately

Regularly wash your hands with soap


How is it diagnosed?

Swabs are taken from the nose and throat and are then tested


Can I catch it from eating pork?

No.  There is no evidence that people are at risk from eating infected pork.

It is important however to cook meat properly and a temperature of 70°C plus would ensure killing viruses in any pig meat


Can I use the Talk to a Doctor Service to supply Tamiflu?

No.  Unfortunately, we do not prescribe medicine and stocks are currently government controlled.  You can speak with our doctors if you need advice or further information on flu's.


Is there a vaccine:

Current treatments work but there is so far no vaccine.  Creating vaccines takes a long time to develop as the flu virus is ever changing


Can I die from Swine flu?

People only die from swine flu, once they develop complications like viral or bacterial pneumonia, bronchitis or infections ofthe central nervous system.  Swine flu will also worsen pre-existing medical conditions as with any flu.


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