Swine flu is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus. It is believed that this influenza virus is a endemic in pigs. The symptoms of the disease are similar to those of influenza with chill, fever, sore throat, headache, coughing and weakness being the common features. Swine flu is normally caused by influenza A sub-types such as H1N1, H1N2, H1N3 and H2N3. Besides persisting in pigs, this has also been circulated in human beings and is presently contributing to world wide influenza.
Further research has revealed that the current outbreak is the result of a new strain which has not been previously found in pigs. The outbreak of swine flu in May 2009 is believed to have links with the pigs at a farm in Alberta, Canada that had links with swine pandemic in Mexico. The initial reports identify the new strain as swine influenza but its origin is unknown. Several countries immediately took up precautionary measures to reduce the chances of global pandemic of the disease.
People working with poultry and swine / hogs are actively exposed and are at increased risk as influenza virus is endemic in these animals. Vaccinating the workers and keeping a close watch on new strain may be an active public health measure to block its spread. Other professionals at risk are veterinarians and meat processing workers. However, the risk element is less for such professionals than the farm workers.
Pigs which are infected with this influenza strain show feverish condition, lethargy and have apparent breathing difficulty. Direct transmission of swine flu virus from pigs to humans is possible, but only occasionally. The 2009 swine flu outbreak has shown acute febrile respiratory illness. The most common cause of swine flu fatality is respiratory failure. Other causes related to the disease and subsequent mortality is pneumonia, high fever, dehydration owing to excessive vomiting and electrolyte imbalance. Elderly people and children are more prone to swine flu deaths.
For diagnosis of swine flu different medical kits like swab test for viral culture and indirect test by detection of anti-bodies. Preventing the disease has been categorized with work centers concentrating on blocking the influenza strain in swine, preventing transmission to humans and preventing its wide spread infection amongst humans.
Methods of prevention of the disease in pigs include facility management, vaccination and herd management. Standard commercial vaccines can effectively control the infection when the virus strains match. Facility management revolves around using disinfectants and temperature control to eradicate the virus in the environment. Herd management includes isolating the sick animals from those who are not infected by the virus.
Using face masks and vaccine may prevent human infection, while wearing gloves also helps to a certain extent. Influenza spreads among humans through coughing, sneezing or touching any virus infected spots. In humans the swine flu is extremely contagious during the first five days of illness while children remain infection prone till ten days.
Standard infection control measures like frequent washing of hands, disinfecting household surface with chlorine bleach, avoiding touching mouth and eyes with infected hands prevents swine flu. It is advised by physicians that anyone suffering from flu like symptoms should avoid public transportation, stay away from public places and social gatherings, while taking vaccines is also helpful.
Treating humans infected by swine flu depends on anti-viral drugs which makes the illness less severe. Other measures for curing the disease are supportive care at home and hospitals that focuses on relieving pain and maintaining fluid balance.