Swine Influenza (Swine Flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by a type A Influenza virus. Swine Flu viruses do not normally infect humans, however, when it happens it occurs in persons with direct exposure to pigs. The latest report from the Pan American Health Organization state that the cases are still limited to the states of Nuevo Leon, Baja California, San Luis Potosi, Mexico City, Veracruz and Oaxaca. The Mexican Public Health Authorities have activated their emergency plan to address and contain the outbreak. The concern for Belize is that these states conforms a path where Belizeans return by road across Mexico from the USA.
The symptoms of swine flu in people are expected to be similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal influenza and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people can have runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Swine Flu can be directly transmitted from pigs to people and from people to pigs. Person to person transmission of swine flu can also occur. This is thought to occur in the same way that seasonal flu occurs in people, which is mainly person-to-person transmission through coughing or sneezing by people infected with the influenza virus. Humans may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.
At this time, there is no swine flu vaccine for humans and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Pan American Health Organization advise that the effectiveness of the seasonal flu vaccine is not known at this point but is being investigated. The CDC recommends routine precautions to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. These include:
• Wash your hands often
• Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze
• Avoid close contact with sick people.
• If you are sick, stay at home and limit contact with others.
Persons travelling through Mexico, or who recently travelled to Mexico and show any signs and symptoms compatible with influenza (flu) should call or visit the nearest Government Health Center or your health care provider. The public is strongly encouraged not to travel to the areas affected if it could be avoided.
The Ministry of Health is monitoring the situation and will keep the public updated. (ends)
4792 Coney Drive, 3rd Floor, Withfield Tower, Belize City, Belize