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Swine Flu information supplied courtesy of Globe Medical
(www.globemedical.com.au) in Adelaide, which provides a comprehensive
service for travellers whether outbound, inbound or just passing through.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION ON SWINE FLU
What do I know about human influenza and pandemics?
Influenza viruses are grouped into three types known as A, B and C. Serotypes A and B pose the greatest public health risk.
Type B can cause sporadic outbreaks amongst children in school and community settings. Both A and B are essentially
Of greatest concern are the influenza A viruses. These viruses can mutate much more rapidly than B and can also infect
other animal groups such as pigs, horses, and birds. Influenza A viruses get their names from proteins on their surface. One
is called Haemagluttinin or HA which governs the binding and entry of the virus in the cells and the other is Neuraminidase
or NA which governs the release of the newly formed virus from infected cells into the host. There are 15 HA subtypes and 9
NA subtypes. At unpredictable intervals influenza A viruses cause pandemics. In 1918/19 influenza A (H1N1) was responsible
for 20 - 40 million deaths world-wide. Less severe pandemics have been recorded in the 1950s - Asian flu (H2N2) and 1968
- Hong Kong Flu (H3N2). To date only the subtypes H1, H2 and H3 are known to have circulated in humans over the last 100
years. Each year health authorities determine the most appropriate combination based on the viruses circulating during the
preceding winter in the northern or southern hemispheres respectively. The current Australian influenza vaccine, 2009, is
composed of 2 influenza A components (A/ Brisbane H1N1, A/ Brisbane H3N2) and a B component (B Florida).
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has raised the pandemic alert category to phase 5. What does this
"Phase 5 is characterized by human-to-human spread of the virus into at least two countries in one WHO region. While
most countries will not be affected at this stage, the declaration of Phase 5 is a strong signal that a pandemic is
imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation
What about swine flu:
does the current outbreak pose a risk to me?
What is swine flu?
Swine Influenza (Swine flu) is caused by a highly contagious influenza A virus. Currently there are four main influenza
subtypes, H1N1, H1N2, H3N2 and H3N1. Recently isolated influenza viruses are mostly H1N1. The virus causes epidemics
amongst pigs and can be transmitted to humans by aerosol or direct contact. Most outbreaks occur during late autumn and
How common is swine flu infection in humans?
The CDC has received reports of approximately one human swine influenza virus infection every one to two years in the US.
Human to human transmission has been observed but outbreaks have been very limited. In 1976, more than 200 cases and
1 death were reported amongst soldiers at Fort Dix in America (Influenza A/New Jersey). In September 1988, a previously
healthy 32-year-old pregnant woman was hospitalized for pneumonia and died 8 days later. A swine H1N1 flu virus was
detected. The woman had visited a county fair swine exhibition prior to her illness and there had been a widespread
influenza-like illness among the swine at the time. Immunity to swine flu has been noted amongst pig farmers in the USA.
Ease of transmission is currently unknown.
What are the signs and symptoms of swine flu in humans?
Symptoms of swine flu in humans are similar to that of the regular flu, including fever, cough, sore throat, aching body,
headache, chills, diarrhoea and vomiting. Severe illness including pneumonia and severe respiratory disease have been reported.
How is swine flu spread?
Swine influenza A is thought to spread in the same way as seasonal flu through coughs and sneezes. An individual may be
infectious for one to 2 days before symptoms develop. It is also possible to become infected by touching something with flu
viruses on it and then touching the mouth or nose. Many viruses can live for more than 2 hours on surfaces such as door
What can I do to protect myself from Swine flu?
There is no vaccine available to protect against swine flu. The current influenza A vaccine will protect against the more
common circulating influenza A viruses but not swine flu. It is an important vaccine in situations where an outbreak of
seasonal influenza A may be confused with a pandemic flu. To protect yourself against respiratory tract viruses generally:
Try to avoid close contact with sick people eg household contacts
Keep your hands clean with an alcohol based product or soap and water
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands
How can I protect others if I have a flu-like illness?
If you are sick with probable influenza it is best to limit your contact with people as much as possible. Do not go to your
workplace, place of study or public places. Always cover your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze and try at all
times to keep your hands disinfected. Dispose of tissues carefully. Isolating yourself or wearing a mask may reduce spread
Can I contract swine flu from eating or cooking with pork?
No. You cannot get swine flu from exposure to pork products. Eating properly cooked pork is safe. Swine influenza is not
Are there medications available to treat swine flu?
Yes, there are 2 main antiviral drugs approved for the treatment of influenza A. These are Oseltamivir (brand name:
Tamiflu) and Zanamivir (brand name: Relenza). Ideally, both must be administered as soon as possible and generally within
24 to 48hrs of symptoms developing. When used to treat influenza A, they are about 70-90% effective. Both must be
For further more detailed information and current updates:
Centre for Disease Control (CDC) Atlanta
World Health Organisation: http://www.who.int/csr/.n/index.html
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