About Swine Flu
Swine flu is a Type A influenza virus which causes regular outbreaks of flu in pigs, but is rarely fatal. In the past. swine flu has not normally affected humans, although there have been a few cases reported in people with direct exposure to pigs or in those who have been near pigs. From December 2005 to February 2009, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 12 cases of human infection with swine flu.
In late April 2009, the outbreak of more than a thousand cases of swine flu in humans in Mexico, and a suspected 86 deaths, as well as another 11 cases confirmed in the United States, led the World Health Organization (WHO) to say that the outbreak has "pandemic potential" and to urge all countries to increase their reporting and surveillance of influenza and to be on high alert for any unusual patterns.
In June 2009 WHO declared the start of a flu pandemic.
By August 27, 2009, alhtough most of the cases of swine flu in Canada had been mild, 72 deaths caused by the virus had been reported. The Public Health Agency points out that there are usually about 4000 Canadian deaths every year due to all different strains of influenza. However, the Canadian government is preparing for additional waves of illness and possible changes in the virus. The Canadian Minister of Health has said that there will be enough swine flu vaccine available in the late fall of 2009 for all Canadians who need it, or want it.
Symptoms of Swine Flu
The symptoms of swine flu are usually like those of regular seasonal flu and include:
- loss of appetite
- runny nose
- watery eyes
- throat irritation
- nausea and vomiting
- in people with chronic conditions, pneumonia may develop
Precautions Against Swine Flu
Good standard flu prevention techniques are recommended to protect yourself against swine flu:
- Get a regular seasonal flu vaccination. It might not help against this specific strain, but it won't hurt.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and hot running water. If hot water is not available, use an alcohol-based hand gel.
- When you cough and sneeze, cover your mouth and nose. Wash your hands afterwards.
- Avoid being near others who might be sick.
- Stay home if you are sick, to avoid affecting others.
Precautions for Travellers
- Before you travel, find out what vaccines you will need and where to get them. Visit your family doctor or a travel health clinic at least six weeks before your departure date.
- If you get sick when you are travelling, seek medical assistance.
- If you are sick when you return to Canada, or have been near someone who is, you must tell a customs or quarantine office, who will decide if you need further medical assessment.
- If you get sick after you return to Canada, see a health care provider. Be sure to tell him/her the countries you visited, if you were sick while away and any medical care or treatment your received.