Swine flu is a disease of pigs that can, in rare cases, be passed to humans. It is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by one of many Influenza A viruses.
The disease is spread among pigs by direct and indirect contact, aerosols, and from pigs that are infected but do not have symptoms. In many parts of the world, pigs are vaccinated against swine flu.
Most commonly, swine flu is of the H1N1 influenza subtype. However, swine flu viruses can sometimes come from other subtypes, such as H1N2, H3N1, and H3N2.
The 2009 outbreak of swine flu that infected humans was of the H1N1 subtype. It is important to note that, although it developed in swine, the 2009 pandemic virus was not completely derived from swine. The virus contains a combination of flu genes from bird, swine, and human flu types.
Fast facts on swine flu:
Here are some key points about swine flu.
Swine flu was normally of the H1N1 influenza subtype. However, since 2017, the H3N2 subtype has become the dominant strain.
The most common way for a human to catch swine flu is through contact with a pig.
There is currently a vaccine for swine flu that is included with the standard seasonal flu shots.
Symptoms of swine flu include coughs, chills, and aches, similar to seasonal flu.
Swine flu is spread to humans primarily through contact with infected pigs.
The symptoms of swine flu in humans are quite similar to those of regular flu, and include:
Less commonly, a person with swine flu may experience vomiting and diarrhea
Symptoms can be managed with similar treatments to regular flu. However, a doctor should examine the patient for confirmation of swine flu and advise how to relief individual symptoms.
A vaccine has been produced to protect humans against the H1N1 strain of swine flu. This was introduced following a pandemic of swine flu in 2009 and 2010.
The status of swine flu has changed from a pandemic to a seasonal type of human influenza. The specialized vaccine has now been replaced by more general seasonal flu shots.
People who are over 10 years old only require one shot of the vaccine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends two shots for children under this age, to be taken four weeks apart.
People with an egg allergy and children with severe asthma are at risk of an adverse reaction to this vaccine and should discuss the shot with a healthcare professional. There are special regimens designed to help the bodies of people who experience these reactions accept the vaccine.
There are some drugs available that can effectively treat swine flu.
The two main treatments are adamantanes, including amantadine and rimantadine, and medications that inhibit the influenza neuraminidase protein, such as oseltamivir and zanamivir.
However, most people with swine influenza recover completely without the need for medical attention.
There are only a few causes of swine flu in humans. They are:
Contact with infected pigs: This is the most common way of catching swine flu. Any contact with infected pigs makes transmission more likely.
Contact with infected humans: This is a much less common way of catching swine flu, but is a risk, especially for those in close contact with an infected person.
In cases where humans have infected other humans, close contact was necessary with the infected person, and it nearly always occurred in closed groups of people.
Some people are more at risk of catching swine flu than others; including:
people aged over 65 years
children under 5 years
people with chronic diseases
teenagers receiving long-term aspirin therapy
anyone with a compromised immune system