Swine Flu: Can You Get It From Eating Pork?

Swine flu. Over the weekend the reports about the swine flu scare that has killed dozens of people in Mexico and prompted authorities in that country to close schools, libraries, museums and other places where people gather in close proximity were all over the news.

This morning my nine-year-old heard it being talked about on the news and got a little worried. The report he heard was about Mexico, so I could honestly say to him, “What they are talking about is happening in Mexico.” That seemed to stop his worries. But the fact of the matter is swine flu is being reported here in the U.S., too.

As of April 29, 2009, the CDC is reporting 91 cases of swine flu in humans in the U.S. – 14 in California, 2 in Kansas, 51 in NYC, 1 in Ohio and 6 in Texas. The CDC website says that “this is a rapidly evolving situation and CDC will provide new information as it becomes available.” By the time you read this, the site could have different figures.

A lot of people want to know if you can get swine flu from eating pork products that come from pigs that were infected with swine flu. The answer is no, you can’t get it from eating pork or pork products.

It spreads the same way that other flu viruses spread. It normally only spreads from pig to pig, but according to the CDC it can infect humans. It seems that this current strain of swine flu is affecting humans more than other strains in the past and is spreading more easily from human to human.

So, while you don’t need to be concerned about getting swine flu from the pork you eat, you still should be concerned with protecting yourself from the virus.

Here are some steps to take to help prevent the transmission of this swine flu (or any other flu virus).

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash immediately.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth (which is how a flu virus that has gotten on your hands can enter your body).
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Stay home if you do get sick.

The CDC says that the virus is “susceptible to the prescription antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir.” This is good news. If you’re like me, and you usually just keep plugging away when you have cold or flu symptoms until they pass, you may want to actually go see a doctor if flu-like symptoms arise. Although no one in the U.S. has died from this strain of swine flu yet, officials believe it may be too early in the U.S. to know the true impact the flu will have.
According to the CDC, here are the symptoms to look for.

The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. In the past, severe illness (pneumonia and respiratory failure) and deaths have been reported with swine flu infection in people. Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.

For more questions and answers on the swine flu and you, visit the CDC Q&A; page on swine flu.
And, for a possible environmental cause of this flu virus, see Karl Burkart, TreeHugger's technology blogger, post this morning on what Mexican locals are saying.

Image: Nick Nguyen