Can I catch swine flu?

Recommendations and other information for people with high risk factors for Influenza A (H1N1).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed Michigan’s first case of Influenza A (H1N1) virus (previously referred to as swine flu) for 2016. Pigs can be infected with their own influenza virus that is different from human flu viruses. While rare, influenza can spread from pigs to people. However, it is important to know that you cannot get Influenza A (H1N1) from eating properly handled and cooked pork or pork products.

Cooking pork roasts, steaks and chops to 145 degrees Fahrenheit with a three-minute rest time before carving or consuming kills the Influenza A (H1N1) virus just as it does other bacteria and viruses. Michigan State University Extension recommends reading this article for more information about how to cook and prepare pork safely.

People who are at high risk of contracting Influenza A H1N1 are the same people who are at risk of other serious flu complications. This high-risk group includes children younger than 5 years, people 65 years and older, pregnant women and people with immune compromised conditions such as asthma, other lung diseases, diabetes, heart disease and people with weakened immune systems (transplant patients) and people with neurological or neurodevelopmental conditions.

CDC recommendations and other information for people with high-risk factors:

  • Avoid pigs and swine barns.
  • If you develop flu symptoms call your health care provider, tell them about your risk factors and that you’ve had exposure to pigs or swine barns recently.
  • Avoid taking food or drinks into pig areas; don’t eat, drink or put anything in your mouth in pig areas.
  • Don’t take toys, pacifiers, cups, baby bottles, strollers or similar items into pig areas.
  • Avoid close contact with ill-looking pigs.
  • Seasonal flu vaccine will not protect against this strain of flu.
  • Wash hands often with soap and running water before and after exposure to pigs.  If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Minimize contact with pigs in the barn areas or arenas.
  • If you develop flu symptoms call your health care provider, tell them about your risk factors and that you’ve had exposure to pigs or swine barns recently.
  • Avoid contact with pigs if you have flu-like symptoms. Wait 7 days after your illness started or until you have been without fever for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication.  If you must have contact with pigs, take protective actions (gloves, protective clothing, masks that cover mouth and nose).

All types of flu have similar symptoms and Influenza A (H1N1) is no different. Remember it is caught directly from the pig not from eating pork or pork products.

Recommendations to treat the flu include, staying home and resting, drinking fluids, taking medicines for fever (acetaminophen or ibuprofen), washing hands often, covering mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and contacting your doctor within 48 hours if symptoms worsen or if you need further advice.  

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