What You Should Know About the Swine Flu
You may have questions about influenza (the flu) in both pigs and people. We would like to let you know about flu viruses in pigs and what people in contact with pigs can do to reduce the risk of getting sick or of getting their pigs sick.
There are many causes of respiratory disease in pigs, including influenza. Although pigs and people now share the H1N1 virus, other viruses circulating in swine are different from viruses circulating in people. At this time, there are three main flu viruses that circulate in U.S. pigs: influenza H1N1, influenza H1N2 and influenza H3N2. Flu viruses commonly infect pigs and can result in high rates of illness.
Signs of influenza in pigs include:
• Coughing (“barking”) •Sneezing •High fevers •Breathing difficulties
• Discharge from the nose •Going off food
Pigs also may become infected with flu viruses from people and birds. This cross-species spread and possible mixing of flu viruses can lead to new and very different flu viruses that might gain the ability to spread easily between people.
Flu viruses are thought to spread among pigs in the same way that human influenza viruses spread among people. That is mainly through close contact between pigs and possibly from contact by an object contaminated by an infected pig. Pigs also can be infected by flu viruses from their human caretakers.
It may be possible to lessen the risk of infections in pigs and/or severity of disease by vaccinating your pig against influenza, practicing good hygiene, and discussing with your physician about getting vaccinated against seasonal influenza.
If you or your family members become sick with flu-like symptoms and need medical treatment, take the following steps:
• Contact your health care provider and let them know about your symptoms and that you have a pig. Your doctor may prescribe treatment with influenza antiviral medications and may want a nose and throat specimen collected from you for testing at your state health department.
• Avoid or limit contact with household members and others while you are sick, and avoid travel.
• Practice good respiratory and hand hygiene. This includes covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and putting used tissues in a waste basket. If tissues are not available, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve. Always wash your hands after coughing or sneezing. This is to lower the risk of spreading whatever virus you have to others.
• Avoid or limit contact with pigs as much as possible. Stay away from pigs for 7 days after symptoms begin or until you have been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications, whichever is longer. (This is to protect your pig from getting sick.)