Epidemiology Week 34

Swine Flu

What is it?

Swine flu is a type of influenza or flu that is caused by a virus that usually circulates in pigs. Influenza A(H3N2v) is a type of swine flu virus. The notation or how the name of the virus is written is similar to that used for human viruses except for the addition of the “v” which stands for “variant”.

 

How do humans get it?

Humans can get the swine flu virus from being close to pigs that are ill, although this does not seem to happen very often. The pig may cough or sneeze and the human inhale the droplets containing the virus, or the human may touch a surface on which viral particles landed and then touch his nose or mouth. Humans have not been shown to get the virus from eating properly handled and prepared meat or other products from pigs.

 

What is the potential for a large outbreak?

While there is no evidence at this time of sustained human-to-human transmission of swine flu, the CDC states that sporadic infections and localized outbreaks may continue to occur.

It should be noted that the influenza viruses can and have changed rapidly in the past. Changes in the genetic structure of the virus could result in increased capacity of the virus to be transmitted from human to human and/or in increased severity. We simply do not know what the virus will do or how it will change each time it inhabits a host. Taking steps to prevent infection is always therefore necessary.

 

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