The World Health Organisation has raised the level of influenza pandemic alert to phase 6 – full pandemic status…
Mitchell Winter of leading UK Health and Safety consultancy Winter and Company says: “The change to a higher phase of pandemic alert indicates that the criteria for an influenza pandemic has now been met.
“Given the widespread presence of the virus, it is considered that containment of the outbreak is not feasible.
“The current situation regarding the outbreak of swine influenza A(H1N1) is evolving rapidly.”
What is swine influenza?
Swine influenza, or “swine flu”, is a highly contagious acute respiratory disease.
What are the implications for human health?
Outbreaks and sporadic human infection with swine influenza have been occasionally reported. Generally clinical symptoms are similar to seasonal influenza but reported clinical presentation ranges broadly from asymptomatic infection to severe pneumonia resulting in death.
Since typical clinical presentation of swine influenza infection in humans resembles seasonal influenza and other acute upper respiratory tract infections, most of the cases have been detected by chance through seasonal influenza surveillance. Mild or asymptomatic cases may have escaped from recognition; therefore the true extent of this disease among humans is unknown.
The virus is contagious, spreading easily from one person to another, and from one country to another. There are currently nearly 30,000 confirmed cases reported in 74 countries, including over 7,000 in the UK.
How do people become infected?
What about the pandemic risk?
The impact of a pandemic caused by such a virus is difficult to predict, it depends on virulence of the virus, existing immunity among people, cross protection by antibodies acquired from seasonal influenza infection and host factors.
Is there a human vaccine to protect swine influenza?
There are no vaccines that contain the current swine influenza virus causing illness in humans. It is not known whether current human seasonal influenza vaccines can provide any protection. Influenza viruses change very quickly. It is therefore important to develop a vaccine against the currently circulating virus strain.
How can I protect myself from getting swine influenza from infected people?
If there is an ill person at home:
What should I do if I think I have swine influenza?
If you feel unwell, have high fever, cough and/or sore throat: