Swine Flu is an infection caused by one of many types of viruses that typically affect pigs. Though swine flu viruses are not typically passed (transmitted) from pigs to humans, humans can sometimes become infected. If a person is infected with a swine flu virus, they are very contagious (can infect other humans easily) and can be for up to 10 days after they are first infected. There are many types of swine flu viruses, but the most common form seen in humans is called H1N1. Symptoms of swine flu in humans are similar to symptoms seen in other flu virus infections and may include fever, coughing, runny nose, lack of appetite, sore throat, lethargy, diarrhea and vomiting.
Unlike other flu viruses, which typically infect young children and the elderly, swine flu often infects young adults. Risk factors for swine flu include a compromised (weak) immune system and pregnancy. Though the virus circulates throughout the year, most outbreaks occur during the fall and winter months. Human to human transmission of the virus often occurs through the spread of mucus and saliva particles by sneezing, coughing, or touching a germ-covered surface.
Diagnosis of swine flu is made by examining a patient and conducting a swab of the patient’s nose and throat to identify whether the infection is caused by a swine flu virus. To prevent a swine flu infection you should wash your hands often, avoid touching your nose and eyes, and avoid exposure to people who are infected by the virus. Immunizations for common types of the swine flu virus can reduce the chance of infection. Once a person is infected, treatment of swine flu generally includes medications that relieve symptoms. If you have been diagnosed with swine flu, talk with your doctor about the latest treatment options.