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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Is There A Vaccine Against Swine Flu?


What about the pandemic risk?

It is likely that most people, especially those who do not have regular contact with pigs, do not have immunity to swine influenza viruses that can prevent the virus infection. If a swine virus establishes efficient human-to human transmission, it can cause an influenza pandemic. The impact of a pandemic caused by such a virus is difficult to predict: it depends on virulence of the virus, existing immunity among people, cross protection by antibodies acquired from seasonal influenza infection and host factors.

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Is there a human vaccine to protect against swine influenza?

There are no vaccines that contain the current swine influenza virus causing illness in humans. It is not known whether current human seasonal influenza vaccines can provide any protection. Influenza viruses change very quickly. It is important to develop a vaccine against the currently circulating virus strain for it to provide maximum protection to the vaccinated people. This is why WHO needs access to as many viruses as possible in order to select the most appropriate candidate vaccine virus.

What medicines are available for treatment?

There are two classes of such medicines, 1) adamantanes (amantadine and remantadine), and 2) inhibitors of influenza neuraminidase (oseltamivir and zanamivir).

Most of the previously reported swine influenza cases recovered fully from the disease without requiring medical attention and without antiviral medicines.

Some influenza viruses develop resistance to the antiviral medicines, limiting the effectiveness of treatment. The viruses obtained from the recent human cases with swine influenza in the United States are sensitive to oselatmivir and zanamivir but resistant to amantadine and remantadine.

Information is insufficient to make recommendations on the use of the antivirals in treatment of swine influenza virus infection. Clinicians should make decisions based on the clinical and epidemiological assessment and harms and benefits of the treatment of the patient2. For the ongoing outbreak of the swine influenza infection in the United States and Mexico, national and local authorities are recommending use oseltamivir or zanamivir for treatment of the disease based on the virus’s susceptibility profile.

What should I do if I am in regular contact with pigs?

Even though there is no clear indication that the current human cases with swine influenza infection are related to recent or ongoing influenza-like disease events in pigs, it would be advisable to minimize contact with sick pigs and report such animals to relevant animal health authorities.

Most people are infected through prolonged, close contact with infected pigs. Good hygiene practices are essential in all contact with animals and are especially important during slaughter and post-slaughter handling to prevent exposure to disease agents. Sick animals or animals that died from disease should not be undergoing slaughtering procedures. Follow further advice from relevant national authorities.

Swine influenza has not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating properly handled and prepared pork (pig meat) or other products derived from pigs. The swine influenza virus is killed by cooking temperatures of 160°F/70°C corresponding to the general guidance for the preparation of pork and other meat.

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