Children at Risk from Swine Flu
145 new cases of swine flu, most of them in children, have been reported last Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the last 5 weeks. A spokesman for the CD said there has been a significant step change over the dozen cases reported only the week before. “We’re seeing a big increase, and we think it’s a real increase,” said the CDC. The disease is thought to be picked up from pigs at county fairs.
The swine flu is an unpleasant condition for the sufferers but to date nobody has died from it. Two cases have been hospitalized though and the CDC are recommending precautions for those attending fairs. The things people need to be aware of around this flu are:
It is called H3N2v and originates in pigs, but is increasingly being transmitted to humans. According to the CDC report there have been confirmed cases found in Indiana, Ohio, Hawaii and Illinois.
Really, H3N2v is just a straightforward flu when contracted by average healthy people. The symptoms are typically, raised temperature, aching limbs, sore throat, running nose, sneezing and coughing. Sufferers tend to regain full health in a matter of days without medical help. Only in rare acute cases where there is a pre-existing medical problem, are antiviral drugs required to fight the flu bug.
The source of transfer to humans is in close contact with pigs. Pigs launch the virus into the air and onto surfaces by sneezing and people pick it up through inhalation or touching those infected surfaces. It is the season for agricultural fairs and so the number of cases is naturally up, because of the big increase in close encounters of the third kind between pigs and people. Conditions for spreading the virus could not be better. As a flu expert at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis puts it, “You bring together these fair pigs. I’d assume a lot are not vaccinated…. You get this burst where the virus transmits rapidly among pigs. At the same time, you’re getting more people walking through the barns than you would in a commercial farm. “It is a myth that we can catch H3N2v from eating pork food products.
9 out of 10 of the cases reported by the CDC are in children. It is thought that this is due to children rearing pigs and preparing them for showing at the fairs. Caring for pigs is a farm chore that is often left to the children. 1 in 3 adults in America are naturally immune to H3N2v, thanks to resistant antibodies. These entered the population and remain there since an epidemic over thirty years ago. The virus transferred back to pigs where it mutated genetically and emerged as new version in humans. This version is the current H3n2v.
Birds, seals, dogs and horses are the only other species that are prone to this virus. It does not spread easily between species, tending instead to remain within the pigs for the most part. The best approach to preventing swine flu is to sneeze and cough into disposable tissues and to wash hands regularly.