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Swine flu not an issue at Penn State, but precautions advised

4/27/2009 —

Swine influenza, or swine flu, is a respiratory disease that causes regular outbreaks among pigs. While unusual, swine flu can spread from pigs to humans most commonly through direct exposure to pigs (such as working on a pig farm). Human-to-human spread of swine flu also has been reported. Swine flu is not transmitted by eating pork.

There are currently 20 laboratory confirmed cases of swine flu in the United States and additional cases worldwide. University Health Services (UHS) works closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and participates in ongoing influenza surveillance.  As part of this program, UHS will test for swine flu as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health officials. To date there are no cases of swine flu at Penn State.

Individuals traveling internationally may visit http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/ for updated information concerning their travel destination.

Symptoms of swine flu in humans are similar to seasonal flu. These symptoms include fever, tiredness, body aches and coughing. Runny nose, sore throat, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting also been reported.

Shelley Haffner, infection control nurse manager for University Health Services, advises following these basic guidelines to stay healthy:

  • ­
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often ­ especially after coughing or sneezing. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • ­Do not share utensils, drinks, cigarettes, or personal care items; avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as cross-contamination can occur.
  • ­Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Always dispose of tissues properly.

The seasonal flu vaccine does not protect against swine flu. Individuals who are experiencing flu-like symptoms should make an appointment with their health provider. UHS appointments can be scheduled online at www.sa.psu.edu/uhs or by calling (814) 863-0774. If diagnosed in time, infected individuals may be treated with an antiviral medication.

Additional information about swine flu is available at www.cdc.gov/swineflu/general_info.htm.

Penn State is carefully monitoring developments in the cases of swine influenza both in the United States and abroad. While there have been no reported cases in Pennsylvania and no cases in the U.S. have resulted in death, there are a number of questions surrounding this respiratory disease.

The University for a number of years has actively prepared for these types of illnesses and there are plans and procedures in place to ensure an effective response, should the situation change over time. Currently, there are no changes to University operations or activities as a result of swine flu and the following question-and-answer article has been prepared to provide factual, easy-to-reference information about the illness.

Swine Flu Q & A

What is swine flu?
Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A 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.

Is this swine flu virus contagious?

CDC has determined that this swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. However, at this time, it not known how easily the virus spreads between people. 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.

What are the signs and 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.

Are there medicines to treat swine flu?
Yes. CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir (brand name Tamiful) or zanamivir (brand name Relenza)­both antiviral drugs­for the treatment and/or prevention of infection with these swine influenza viruses.

What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?
There is no vaccine available right now to protect against swine flu. There are everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza. 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 get sick with influenza, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
What is the best way to keep from spreading the virus through coughing or sneezing?
If you are sick, limit your contact with other people as much as possible. Do not go to work or school if ill. Contact your medical care provider. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Put your used tissue in the waste basket. Cover your cough or sneeze if you do not have a tissue. Then, clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or sneeze.

What should I do if I get sick?
If you live in areas where swine influenza cases have been identified and become ill with influenza-like symptoms, including fever, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, or vomiting or diarrhea, you may want to contact their health care provider, particularly if you are worried about your symptoms. Your health care provider will determine whether influenza testing or treatment is needed.

If you are sick, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people as much as possible to keep from spreading your illness to others.

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

In children emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
  • 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

In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site at http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/ .

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