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Swine Flu Information
Swine flu is the common name given to a new strain of influenza (flu). It is called swine flu because it is thought to have originated in pigs, but this is not certain.

People with swine flu typically have a fever or high temperature (over 38°C) and may also have aching muscles, sore throat and/or a dry cough (see Symptoms). In other words, the symptoms are very similar to seasonal (regular) flu. Most people recover within a week, even without special treatment.


The virus was first identified in Mexico in April 2009. It has since become a pandemic, which means it has spread around the globe. It has spread quickly because it is a new type of flu virus that few, if any, people have full resistance to.

Flu pandemics are a natural event that occur from time to time. Last century, there were flu pandemics in 1918, 1957 and 1968, when millions of people died across the world.

In most cases the virus has proved relatively mild. However, around the world hundreds of people have died and it is not yet clear how big a risk the virus is. For this reason, and because all viruses can mutate to become more potent (stronger), scientists are saying we need to be careful.

The situation in the UK

New cases of swine flu in the week to October 29 were estimated at 78,000, up from 53,000 the week before. So far, 137 people have died in the UK.

The UK formally moved from a containment to a treatment phase for swine flu on July 2 2009. Intensive efforts to contain swine flu, for example through automatic school closures, ended. This was to free up capacity to treat the people who are contracting swine flu daily.

As in other countries, most of the cases reported so far in the UK have been mild. Only a small number have led to serious illness, and these have often been in patients with existing health problems, such as cancer, that already weakened their immune systems.

Some people believe that the government should only give antivirals to those who are most at risk of developing serious complications from swine flu. In other words, if people are otherwise healthy, the virus should be treated with with paracetamol and bed rest until the person is better, as you would with normal flu.

However, the government's Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) believes that there is still some doubt about the risks of the virus. For example, there are reports of some cases in Argentina where young, healthy adults have become extremely ill from swine flu.

While there is still this doubt, the government has decided to offer the antiviral medicines Tamiflu or Relenza to everyone who is confirmed with swine flu.

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