Consumer Advice

Swine Flu FAQ's

Why is it called ‘swine flu'? - The virus contains genetic material from strains of pig, human and bird influenza. More of the genetic material is of pig strains, hence why people have started calling it ‘swine flu'. The World Health Organisation (WHO) is now referring to the virus as Influenza A (H1N1).

Does it come from pigs? - There is currently no definitive scientific proof that this strain originated in pig populations. Based on current evidence from surveillance programmes in several European countries, the variant of H1N1 virus recently isolated in human beings has never been reported, and therefore does not appear to be present in the European pig population.

Can humans catch flu from pigs? - Transmission of influenza strains between species has been reported in the past and so can potentially occur. Infection occurs through contact with live pigs and aerosol transmission of the virus in the same way that people give each other flu through coughs and sneezes. However, as stated above, there is no evidence of any infection with the new variant of ‘swine flu' in the European pig population.

Can I catch flu from eating pig meat? - You cannot catch ‘swine flu' from eating cooked pork.

Can pigs catch ‘swine flu' from humans? - There is a recent report of human-to-pig transmission in Alberta, Canada, This apparently followed contact of pigs with an infected pig worker, apparently incubating H1N1 virus infection following return from travel to Mexico. However, to date, human-to-animal transmission of H1N1 infection has not been identified or reported by EU member states. Clearly spread between humans is the most important transmission route at present.

For more information - Irvine R & Brown I. Novel H1N1 influenza in people: global spread from an animal source? The Veterinary Record, May 9, 2009 (VR, vol 164, pp 577-578) or click on the link below
S. Greenhalgh MRCVS
14th July 2009.

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