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Home Swine Flu Origins Questions about the swine flu epidemic

Questions about the swine flu epidemic

What is epidemic? Is it the same as pandemic?

Diseases often affect different numbers of people at a time. How many people are infected by a given illness and the geographic range of the those infected can determine whether a virus is epidemic or pandemic.

An epidemic is an illness infecting a greater than average number of people. This can happen in years when the seasonal flu sickens more people than expected. An epidemic becomes pandemic when the rate of illness is at epidemic proportions in several places at once. The higher the proportion of the people in a given area, the more likely that a virus can be considered pandemic instead of epidemic.

All pandemics begin as epidemics. The same is true of the swine flu epidemic.

Is swine flu epidemic or pandemic?

The swine flu began infecting pigs with flu-like symptoms. Occasionally, people who worked in close proximity to pigs, such as farmers, would catch a rare mutated strain of the swine flu. So far, this current version of the swine flu has stopped once it has infected a person, and the proportions of the swine flu epidemic have remained in the pig population in a few countries around the world, not including the United States. The infection normally cannot be passed from person to person if it came from a pig. Cases are rare of swine flu moving from pigs to people. There have only been 12 such cases in the United States between 2005 and 2009.

Can I get swine flu from being around pigs or eating pork?

Very rarely is swine flu passed from pigs onto their caretakers. The likelihood is very low of such an incidence. Pork will not transmit the swine flu since cooking it to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit will kill any bacteria or viruses in the pork. This includes the swine flu which the pig might have had before being sent for processing. Consumers who regularly eat pork have nothing to worry about if they are careful in their handling and cooking of the pork products.

Could the swine flu epidemic infect millions of people?

The swine flu epidemic in the past has moved from infecting only pigs to becoming a human epidemic and later pandemic. This occurred famously with the 1918 Spanish flu when a strain of flu affecting pigs began to sicken humans. Unlike the modern swine flu epidemic, the 1918 version began to transfer from the person who got it from a pig to another human. The result was a new epidemic which became known as the Spanish flu. Eventually, this became a pandemic.

Currently, there are no indications that such a scenario could occur again. The invention of modern antiviral medications can help to slow a swine flu epidemic from becoming pandemic and sickening millions.

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