Dear All

Governments around the world are on high alert for a swine flu pandemic as the death toll from the Avian/Swine Flu virus in Mexico rose to more than 100 and possible cases were reported as far as New Zealand and Scotland . Last weekend a declaration by the World Health Organisation of an international public health emergency was followed by a call for worldwide surveillance of the spread of the virus. The illness has so far claimed 103 lives, confined hundreds of people to hospital in various countries.

Most of those affected by this strain of swine flu have been young otherwise healthy adults, who are not normally vulnerable to influenza infection. The other major point of concern is that it is apparently being transmitted between humans, unlike the previous strains which generally only affected people who had been in contact with infected pigs.

The WHO has deployed specialised teams to Mexico and the US . Information from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that swine flu A/H1N1 is resistant to the older antiviral medications such as amantadine and rimantidine. It is sensitive to oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza). It is unknown whether the current seasonal flu vaccine provides any protection against this strain; however it is presumed that it is NOT effective against swine flu.

FAQ on Swine Flu.

What is swine flu?
Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type an influenza viruses that causes regular outbreaks in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can and do happen. Swine flu viruses have been reported to spread from person-to-person, but in the past, this transmission was limited and not sustained beyond three people. The classical swine flu virus (an influenza type A H1N1 virus) was first isolated from a pig in 1930. This is the flu naming conventions such as H1N1 or H5N1 strains we are starting to hear so much about.

What are the symptoms of swine flu in people?
The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. In the past, severe illness (pneumonia and respiratory failure) and deaths have been reported with swine flu infection in people. Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.

Can humans catch swine flu?
Swine flu viruses do not normally infect humans. However, sporadic human infections with swine flu have occurred. Most commonly, these cases occur in persons with direct exposure to pigs (e.g. children near pigs at a fair or workers in the swine industry). In addition, there have been documented cases of one person spreading swine flu to others. What are the symptoms of swine flu in humans? The symptoms of swine flu in people are expected to be similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal influenza and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

How does swine flu spread? How can someone with the flu infect someone else?
Spread of this swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is thought to be happening in the same way that seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing of people with influenza.. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. Infected people may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 7 or more days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

What should I do to keep from getting the flu?
First and most important: wash your hands.. Try to stay in good general health. Try not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Are there medicines to treat swine flu?
Yes. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaler) that fight against the flu by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in your body. If you get sick, antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious flu complications. For treatment, antiviral drugs work best if started soon after getting sick (within 2 days of symptoms).

How long can an infected person spread swine flu to others?
People with swine influenza virus infection should be considered potentially contagious as long as they are symptomatic and possible for up to 7 days following illness onset. Children, especially younger children, might potentially be contagious for longer periods.

What surfaces are most likely to be sources of contamination?
Germs can be spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth. Droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air. Germs can be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets from another person on a surface like a desk and then touches their own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands.

Take these everyday steps to protect your health:

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

If you become ill and experience any of the following warning signs, seek medical care immediately:

For Children

Fast breathing or trouble breathing

Bluish skin color

Not drinking enough fluids

Not waking up or not interacting

Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held

Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

Fever with a rash

For Adults

Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen

Severe or persistent vomiting

Personnel who are travelling to affected countries may want to consider the following:

All personnel are advised to carefully consider their need to travel to Mexico or affected countries at this time. Personnel should consider relocating meetings to unaffected locations or alternative working practices such as video-conferencing.

Personnel considering travel should be aware that if the virus continues to spread, restrictions on movement may be imposed with little or no notice. Significant further deterioration in the situation could lead the authorities to control/prohibit travel to and from effected areas placing restrictions on local and international travel.

International airports around the world are screening passengers from the infected countries for symptoms of the virus. Personnel should allow additional time for transiting through airports throughout the region because of screening procedures.

Travellers should ensure that their medical insurance is up-to-date and that they know how to activate it. Travellers should also check that their medical insurance is valid for travel to the infected countries at this time. Personnel should know where to seek medical assistance during their trip.

Travellers and expatriate residents should obtain preventative health advice and regular updates from the World Health Organization and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention.