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Sunday, May 3, 2009

What is swine flu?

What is swine flu?
It is a respiratory disease affecting pigs that is caused by type A influenza virus. Most outbreaks occur during the late fall and winter months, similar to influenza outbreaks in humans.

Does it affect humans?
Swine flu viruses very rarely affect humans. However, sporadic human infections with swine flu have occurred. These cases commonly occur in people with direct exposure to pigs.

How does it spread to humans?
It spreads to humans mainly through contact with infected pigs.

Can people catch swine flu from eating pork?
There is currently no evidence to suggest that swine flu can be transmitted to humans from eating pork or pork products that have been thoroughly cooked.

What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of swine flu are similar to the symptoms of regular influenza. An early symptom is high fever, and this is followed by cough, sore throat, runny nose, and sometimes breathlessness a few days later.

How can the infections be diagnosed?
A respiratory specimen would be collected within the first four to five days of illness, when the infected person is most likely to be shedding the virus. However, some, especially children, may shed the virus for 10 days or longer.

What medications are available to treat the infection?
There are four different antiviral drugs that are licensed for use in Singapore: amantadine, rimantadine, oseltamivir and zanamivir.
While most swine flu viruses have been susceptible to all four drugs, the most recent swine flu viruses isolated from humans are resistant to amantadine and rimantadine. At this time, the US CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) for the treatment and/or prevention of infection with swine flu viruses.

What is MOH doing to ensure that the disease is not transmitted here?
A medical alert has been sent out to all medical practitioners and health-care institutions to update them on the outbreak of swine flu in the United States and Mexico.
When the situation warrants, MOH will step up public health measures, such as quarantine of contacts, issuing public health advisories, and working with other government agencies to screen visitors at Singapore's border checkpoints. MOH also has an influenza pandemic preparedness plan in the event of a pandemic situation.

Is it safe to visit countries with cases of swine flu and will I be quarantined when I return? What travel precautions should I take?
There are currently no travel restrictions or quarantine advised by the World Health Organisation. If you intend to travel to areas which have cases of swine flu, you should:
- Avoid contact with persons with symptoms of influenza
- Avoid crowded areas
- Observe good personal and environmental hygiene
- Maintain good body resistance
What should I do if I suspect I have swine flu after returning to Singapore?
You should consult your doctor immediately and inform the doctor that you had recently travelled to areas which have cases of swine flu.

What should I do if I fall ill overseas?
You should consult a doctor as soon as possible and refrain from travelling until you are certified fit by the doctor.

Does influenza vaccination help in preventing swine flu?
There is no vaccine to protect humans from swine flu. The seasonal influenza vaccine is unlikely to protect against H1N1 swine flu viruses..

Is it safe to come into contact with live pigs in nature reserves and the wildlife reserves?
So far, there are no known cases of swine flu in Singapore. However, proper hygiene practices, such as washing of hands after contact with animals, including pigs, should be maintained.

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