A swine flu outbreak has caused fatalities in humans in Mexico and non-fatal cases in Canada and the United States.
Here are some facts about swine flu:
Q. What is swine flu?
A. Swine flu is a contagious respiratory disease normally found in pigs. According to WHO it tends to infect large numbers of a given pig population, killing between one and four per cent of those affected. Not every animal infected displays symptoms.
Q. Where do outbreaks occur?
A. Swine flu is considered endemic in the United States, and outbreaks in pigs have also been reported elsewhere in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and parts of eastern Asia.
Q. How do humans contract the virus?
A. People usually become infected through contact with pigs, though a few previous reports of limited human-to-human transmission have been reported.
Q. Is it safe to eat pork products?
A. WHO says properly handled and prepared pork products are safe to eat. The swine flu virus dies when cooked at temperatures of 70C or higher.
Q. Does a vaccine exist?
A. Pigs in North America are routinely vaccinated for swine flu, but no vaccine exists for humans. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says testing shows the seasonal flu shot is unlikely to offer any protection against swine flu.
Q. What other treatment is there?
A. The swine flu viruses tested so far respond to treatment with oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza). In terms of prevention, maintaining good hygiene, for example regular hand-washing and staying a safe distance from those infected, may help.
Swine flu symptoms in humans are similar to those seen in people suffering from regular seasonal flu, according to the U-S Centers for Disease Control website. The symptoms include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Human-to-human transmission of swine flu is believed to occur the same way as seasonal flu, mainly through the coughing or sneezing of people infected with the influenza virus. People also can become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.