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Tue., April 28, 2009, 4:26 a.m.

The irreverent side of swine flu virus…

Good morning, Netizens...

Here are some facts about swine flu you might not have heard in discussions about swine flu or pork barrel politics:

Q. What is swine flu?

A. Swine flu is a highly contagious acute respiratory disease normally found in pigs. It spreads through tiny particles in the air, by kissing infected pigs or humans. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) it tends to infect large numbers of a given pig population, killing between 1 and 4 percent of those affected. Not every animal infected displays symptoms although lipstick on a pig snout is a sure sign someone has been kissing the pork. Politicians, particularly in a re-election year, appear to be particularly susceptible to kissing pork in a barrel.

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. In short, most pigs around the world can be infected. Although you can ask any pig if they are infected, be especially cautious about asking wild boars because they are contentious and dislike answering questions from strangers.

Q. How do humans contract the virus?
A. People usually become infected through contact with pigs, though some cases of LIMITED human-to-human transmission have been reported. Don't kiss any pigs. In fact, don't kiss anyone you don't know.

Q. Is it safe to eat pork products?
A. The World Health Organization says properly handled and prepared pork products are safe to eat. The swine flu virus dies when heated to temperatures of 160 F/70 C or higher. Make certain any pigs you encounter are at or above that temperature.

Q. Does a vaccine for swine flu exist?
A. Pigs in North America are routinely vaccinated for swine flu, but no vaccine exists for humans, whether they are prone to kissing pigs or not. In any case, the flu virus evolves quickly, meaning that vaccines are soon obsolete. Health officials say there is no suggestion that the vaccine prepared for seasonal flu will protect against swine flu. The swine flu virus detected in Mexico and the United States appears to 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.


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Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.