Swine flu is common disease of pigs and is caused by the same category of influenza virus (influenza A) that causes flu in humans. While outbreaks of swine flu are common in pigs, swine flu is uncommon in humans. It can occur, however, in individuals who are around pigs, and it is known that the virus can spread between humans in much the same way regular flu can spread, typically through coughing or sneezing as well as by contact with items contaminated by flu virus.
Swine flu in humans resembles seasonal flu, with symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people experience diarrhea and vomiting as well. Like regular flu, swine flu can in some cases cause serious respiratory problems or worsening of chronic medical problems.
People can spread swine flu when they have symptoms and possibly as long as seven days after they first become ill, even if symptoms have subsided. It is also thought that children can remain contagious for an even longer period of time. There is currently no vaccine for prevention of swine flu, and vaccines used for seasonal flu provide no protective effect for the current H1N1 strain of swine flu. As a result, people should follow sensible preventive measures, like these recommended by the CDC:
- 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, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Viruses spread this way.
- 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
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting