Pigs’ physical makeup allows them to contract—and to spread—influenza viruses to and from other species, such as humans and birds. Due to their susceptibility to influenza virus infections from other species, pigs can also serve as “mixing vessel hosts” that can produce new influenza virus strains that could pose a risk to human health. (Image courtesy of USDA/Agricultural Research Service)
ScienceDaily (Apr. 27, 2009) — As new human cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection are identified in the United States and internationally, health officials around the world are continuing their investigation and response effort surrounding the outbreak of swine flu.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the current situation regarding the outbreak of swine flu is evolving rapidly.
As of April 27, 2009, the United States Government has reported 40 laboratory confirmed human cases of swine influenza A (H1N1), with no deaths. Mexico has reported 26 confirmed human cases of infection with the same virus, including seven deaths. Canada has reported six cases, with no deaths, while Spain has reported one case, with no deaths.
For its part, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that it is working very closely with officials in states where human cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) have been identified, as well as with health officials in Mexico, Canada and the World Health Organization.
This includes deploying staff domestically and internationally to provide guidance and technical support.
The CDC activated its Emergency Operations Center to coordinate the agency's response to this emerging health threat, and yesterday the Secretary of the Department Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, declared a public health emergency in the United States. This will allow funds to be released to support the public health response. CDC's goals during this public health emergency are to reduce transmission and illness severity, and provide information to assist health care providers, public health officials and the public in addressing the challenges posed by this newly identified influenza virus. To this end, CDC has issued a number of interim guidance documents in the past 24 hours.
In addition, CDC's Division of the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) is releasing one-quarter of its antiviral drugs, personal protective equipment, and respiratory protection devices to help states respond to the outbreak. Laboratory testing has found the swine influenza A (H1N1) virus susceptible to the prescription antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir. This is a rapidly evolving situation and CDC will provide updated guidance and new information as it becomes available.
CDC is recommending everyday actions that people can take to stay healthy:
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 hands cleaners are also effective.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
Try to avoid close contact with sick people. Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
Swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza among pigs. Swine flu viruses do not normally infect humans; however, human infections with swine flu do occur, and cases of human-to-human spread of swine flu viruses have been documented.
WHO advises no restriction of regular travel or closure of borders. It is considered prudent for people who are ill to delay international travel and for people developing symptoms following international travel to seek medical attention, in line with guidance from national authorities. There is also no risk of infection from this virus from consumption of well-cooked pork and pork products. Individuals are advised to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water on a regular basis and should seek medical attention if they develop any symptoms of influenza-like illness.