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Swine Influenza (Swine Flu; H1N1 Influenza A)

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What is Swine Influenza?

Swine influenza or swine flu, more correctly named H1N1 influenza A, is an influenza virus first detected in the United States in April 2009. This virus was originally described as swine influenza because genetic testing showed it to share many similarities with influenza viruses which normally infect pigs. Further study however has shown that this virus is in fact very different from the influenza virus that normally infects pigs in North America. Rather it contains a mixture of genetic information from viruses that normally infect pigs in Europe and Asia as well as from viruses which normally affect avian (bird) and human hosts.

Who gets Swine Influenza?

People most likely to become infected with regular strains of swine flu are those persons with direct exposure to infected pigs, including workers of the swine industry and other persons in close proximity to infected pigs. However, there is no evidence as yet to suggest pigs in the United States and other areas with confirmed cases are infected with this new virus. Furthermore many human cases, including the original cases described, have had no swine exposure.

Like other influenza viruses, it is believed that this virus spreads mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing by people infected with the virus. The virus may also be spread if people come into contact with objects containing the flu virus and then use unwashed hands to touch their mouth or nose. Hence those as greatest risk would be those with greatest geographic proximity to or with close contact to confirmed cases.

It is important to note that you cannot become infected with this new virus by consuming pork or pork products. The H1N1 viruses are not transmitted by food and hence eating properly handled and cooked pork is safe.

As of April 30 2009, cases of the newly described H1N1 influenza A virus have been confirmed in Austria (1 confirmed case), Canada (19), Germany (3), Israel (2), Mexico (97 cases, 7 deaths), Netherlands (1), New Zealand (3), Spain (13), Switzerland (1), United Kingdom (8) and the United States (109 cases, 1 death). Those affected include adults and children.

As of May 29 2009, cases have been confirmed in Argentina (37 confirmed cases), Australia (147), Austria (1), Bahrain (1), Belgium (8), Brazil (10), Canada (1,118 cases, 2 deaths), Chile (165), China (30), Colombia (17), Costa Rica (33 cases, 1 death), Cuba (4), Czech Republic(1), Denmark (1), Dominican Republic (1), Ecuador (32), El Salvador (11), Finland (3), France (21), Germany (19), Greece (3), Guatemala (5), Honduras (1), Iceland (1), India (1), Ireland (3), Israel (11), Italy (26), Japan (364), Korea (33), Kuwait (18), Malaysia (2), Mexico (4,910 cases, 85 deaths), Netherlands (3), New Zealand (9), Norway (4), Panama (107), Peru (31), Philippines (6), Poland (4), Portugal (1), Romania (3), Russia (2), Singapore (4), Slovakia (1), Spain (143), Sweden (4), Switzerland (4), United Kingdom (203), United States (7,927 cases, 11 deaths), and Uruguay (2).

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calendar icon Created: 2/5/2009 calendar icon Modified: 2/6/2009