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FAQ for Swine Flu

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Is swine flu contagious?

According to Health Protection Agency (HPA) swine flu virus is highly contagious. It spreads from one person to another in the same way as common cold or flu. When a person coughs or sneezes, the virus spreads through the droplets that come out of the nose and mouth. Usually, if a person coughs or sneezes without covering his nose or mouth the virus spread out at a radius of one meter (3 feet). If a healthy person standing nearby inhales the tiny droplets he may get infected. Similarly, if the infected person coughs or sneezes with his mouth or nose covered by his hand and then touches common properties like door knobs, hand rails, keyboard telephone the virus gets easily transferred to those surfaces. Thereafter, if a healthy person touches those surfaces he gets easily infected.


I got a flu shot. Am I protected from swine flu?

The swine flu vaccine is made up of the exact strain of virus that is in circulation. Research have established that a single standard dose of the vaccine produce an immune response in more than 96% of recipients. Studies indicate that the protection occurs in eight to 10 days time. However, the effectiveness of the vaccine also depends on the person receiving the vaccine. It has been found that one dose of the H1N1 shot produces adequate immunity in 92% of the pregnant women who were immunized. However, children probably will still need two doses, as an experiment showed that only about one-third of kids under 10 years developed adequate antibody levels within 10 days following the vaccination. Therefore, it could be safely concluded that flu vaccine provides adequate protection against swine flu, but the number of required shots (one or two) depends on the person taking it.


Can people catch swine flu from eating pig?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) ascertains that people does not get effected by swine flu on eating pork or pork products as Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food. Therefore, it is completely safe to eat properly handled and cooked pork and pork products.

However, it is always advisable to cook pork at an internal temperature of 160°F, as all types of bacteria and viruses, including swine flu virus are killed at this temperature.


Is there a vaccine to prevent swine flu?

Swine flu can be prevented through vaccination. The following is the vaccine schedule:

Children aged from six months and adults: Two doses of 0.5 ml each at an interval of three weeks. 

Children aged from six months to nine years: Two half doses of 0.25 ml each to be given at an interval of three weeks.
Individuals aged 10 years and over with weakened immune systems: Two doses of 0.5 ml each to be given at an interval of three weeks.
Individuals aged 10-59: One dose of 0.5 ml to be given.

Individuals aged 60 years and over: One dose to be given depending on individual health data of the person in concern.


  • The regular flu strain is seasonal in nature. The regular flu season starts at the beginning of each fall and lasts well into winter. It usually poses a danger to the elderly and those with weak immune systems. People infected by regular flu remain sick for a few days and then return to normal health. 
  • All three influenza types A, B, and C that are responsible for regular flu are strains that came from human. On the other hand the virus responsible for swine flu is AH1N1, which is a combination of three types of flu: human, avian, and swine.
  • One significant difference between swine flu virus and common flu virus is that, the strength of the swine flu virus becomes weaker after each transmission, whereas the strength of the common flu virus remain same no matter how many times it is transferred from one person to another. 
  • Common human seasonal flu usually affects elderly people. Since this flu virus has been in existence for so many centuries already, the human body has developed a natural defense mechanism against it. However, people with weaker immune system like elderly people or people with other health complications are more prone to common flu. On the other hand, swine flu affects one and all. It is equally dangerous for younger population with robust health conditions.


Do people die from swine flu?

Yes, there are several groups of people who may die from complications arising from swine flu.

The groups are:
  • babies
  • elderly people
  • sick people with cancer, lung problems, heart disease, or immune system problems.

Healthy people die of swine flu only when it becomes pneumonia. Pneumonia may set in five days after the appearance of the swine flu symptoms. During pneumonia, the lungs get swelled and the affected person has trouble breathing. This situation worsens by and by until he dies.


What is the difference between pandemic and epidemic?

An epidemic refers to a contagious, infectious or viral illness that attacks many people at about the same time at a particular geographic region.

However, when the contagious, infectious or viral illness spread across several communities and countries and attains global proportions, it is called pandemic.
The major difference between pandemic and epidemic are:
  • Pandemic covers a much wider geographical area in comparison to epidemic. An epidemic is specific to one city, region or country. However, when an epidemic crosses national boundaries and attains global proportions it becomes pandemic.
  • Pandemics are usually caused by new virus strains or subtypes. Humans usually have little or no immunity against it.
  • The fatality rate due to pandemics is much higher than epidemics. Pandemics totally disrupt the society, causes economic loss, and general hardship in much larger scale in comparison to epidemics.


What are N95 and N97 masks?

The N95 mask is a particulate filtering face piece respirator. It filters almost 95% of airborne particles; however, it is not resistant to oil. N95 masks offer significant protection against flu infection. It is a more expensive mask and it fits more tightly around the mouth and nose than ordinary surgical masks. As a protection from swine flu, a N95 mask is a better choice than the ordinary surgical mask.

The N97 mask is a non woven fabric mask with ear loops.

As a protection against swine flu, N95 is a better choice.

Washing hands can protect us from getting infected from contagious diseases like swine flu. The best technique to wash hands is given below:
  • First wet the hands under running water
  • Apply liquid, bar or powder soap
  • Scrub the hands vigorously, specially the backs of the hands, wrists, between the fingers and under the fingernails for 20 seconds
  • Wash off the soap and rinse the hands properly
  • Dry the hands with clean and disposable towels or under air dryer
  • Try  to turn off the tap using the disposable towels


The medications used for treating swine flu are antiviral drugs like oseltamivir (trade name Tamiflu®) or zanamivir (trade name Relenza®). These drugs may also be given to children.
  • Oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be given to children over the age of 1 year.
  • Zanamivir (Relenza®) is approved for treatment of children over the age of seven. However, it is not advisable to be given to people with heart diseases or with asthma.
  • For children, Oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) comes in an oral suspension (liquid). Zanamivir (Relenza®) is an inhaled powder, which is available along with a disk inhaler.

Written by: healthplus24 team
Date last updated: January 03, 2010