The Current Situation of Swine Fever
According to the World Health Organization, the situation continues to evolve rapidly. As of 06:00 GMT, 1 May 2009, 11 countries have officially reported 331 cases of influenza A(H1N1) infection.
The United States Government has reported 109 laboratory confirmed human cases, including one death. Mexico has reported 156 confirmed human cases of infection, including nine deaths.
The following countries have reported laboratory confirmed cases with no deaths – Austria, Canada , Germany , Israel , Netherlands, New Zealand , Spain , Switzerland and the United Kingdom . (1)
The causative agent of Swine fever is a flu virus. This virus often infects pigs, however they can rarely spread to humans. This may be due to being in close contacts with an infected pig. The virus causing swine Influenza among human is being described by the USA as a new subtype of A/H1N1 not previously detected in swine or humans. Genetically it is a reassortant of America-Eurasian swine influenza virus. This swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human.
Pigs provide an excellent host for this. The new version has developed the ability to spread among humans, who then infect each other through coughing and sneezing.
The international travel has created an environment which facilitates the spread of this virus.
The symptoms are the same as with normal flu: fever, coughing, sore throat, body aches. Several of those diagnosed with swine flu after trips to Mexico mistook the first signs as the effects of jetlag. Some patients have also reported diarrhoea and vomiting. In Mexico, those who have died suffered from pneumonia and respiratory failure.
Victims will have a temperature, and many airports are fitting scanners so that people arriving from affected areas with a fever can be quarantined. Outside Mexico the virus appears milder than many had feared - although sufferers have been hospitalised.
Who is vulnerable?
According to reports so far, the new strain is most lethal to those in the 25 to 45 age range. This is ominous because it was the hallmark of the Spanish 1918 flu pandemic that killed tens of millions worldwide. However, the circumstances were quite different: many thousands of victims were young men recovering from service in World War One.
The H1N1 strain is far less dangerous than H5N1, or bird flu.
Containment of the Virus
In Mexico itself, mass gatherings are banned as are handshakes and kisses on the cheek. Schools and universities are currently closed. Restaurants in Mexico City have been ordered to close, too.
Is there a Vcaccine?
Not yet. A vaccine would take several months to prepare. (2)
Is it safe to eat pork and pork products?
Yes. Swine influenza has not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating properly handled and prepared pork (pig meat) or other products derived from pigs. The swine influenza virus is killed by cooking temperatures of 160°F/70°C, corresponding to the general guidance for the preparation of pork and other meat. (1)
Is Sri Lanka ready to face Swine Fever?
Yes. Many activities have been initiated in Sri Lanka through the Epidemiological Unit of Sri Lanka to face the epidemic. Some of the initiatives include(3):
A Fact Sheet has been prepared and distributed to all government and private health institutions, provincial and regional directors of health, regional epidemiologists, medical officers/maternal & child health and medical officers of health
A Health Alert has been sent to all government and private health institutions to initiate surveillance of suspected cases and collection of laboratory samples.
A special alert with guidelines has been sent to Airport health officer and the Port health officer to initiate specified vigilance and surveillance activities at these entry points. A letter of request on this alert were sent to Harbour Master at Colombo Port, Director General Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman Airport and Aviation Services
Twenty hospitals had already been identified as sentinel hospitals for pandemic influenza preparedness under the World Bank funded National Avian/Pandemic Influenza Programme and clinical case management capacity in these hospitals in a likely event had been strengthened by establishing/upgrading isolation units, supply of antiviral drug stocks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and training of staff in pandemic preparedness and response including infection control.
Steps have been taken to strengthen the already available stocks of anti viral drugs and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at the identified sentinel hospitals and also at the Medical Supplies Division.
1. World Health Organization. World Health Organization. [Online] May 01, 2009. [Cited: May 01, 2009.] http://www.who.int/csr/don/2009_05_01/en/index.html.
2. The First Post. [Online] http://www.thefirstpost.co.uk/47231,news,swine-fever-its-origins-and-symptoms-to-look-out-for.
3. The Epidemiological Unit of Sri Lanka. [Online] 2009. [Cited: 05 01, 2009.] http://www.epid.gov.lk/Swin%20Flu.htm.