Swine flu is caused by an influenza virus that usually only affects pigs. The virus can occasionally spread from pigs to people, usually after close contact with animals that have the flu. The swine influenza virus is thought to spread among humans the same way it does with seasonal influenza, in other words through contact with infected droplets released into the air when the infected individual coughs or sneezes.
Eating pork is not dangerous – swine influenza cannot spread that way. The swine influenza virus causes symptoms similar to those of the regular human seasonal flu: fever, coughing, sore throat, muscle aches and fatigue. As with the human flu, this virus can lead to complications (e.g. pneumonia), particularly in persons with a chronic respiratory illness or compromised immune system. Good hygiene measures are the best protection against both human and swine influenza.
1. Wash your hands frequently, especially after sneezing and before handling food. A good hand washing involves more than a quick rinse under warm water! Always use soap and scrub for about twenty seconds. Don’t forget to clean under your nails. You can also use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if you do not have access to soap and water.
2. Always cover your nose and mouth when sneezing and always wash your hands afterwards. If you use a tissue, always throw it into the garbage – don’t put it in your pocket!
3. Whenever possible, avoid coming into contact with individuals who have flu symptoms.
4. If you have flu symptoms, stay home! This will help reduce the risk of spreading your infection to others. The risk of contagion usually lasts for as long as symptoms are present, in other words for about seven days. Young children could be contagious for a longer time.
Taking care of your health is also a good way to keep illnesses at bay, including the flu. Eat healthy foods, get enough sleep and exercise regularly.