Swine influenza viruses usually infect swine (pigs) and can, in rare cases, infect humans. Swine influenza viruses are commonly known as “swine flu.” Human infections with “swine flu” usually occur in people exposed to infected pigs or in people who come into direct contact with the environment of infected pigs at a fair or other congregate setting. Human infections with swine flu mainly happen when an infected pig coughs or sneezes and the droplets with the virus spread through the air. If these droplets land in the nose or mouth, humans can become infected. There is evidence that infection can also spread by touching something that has the virus is on. If proper hand hygiene practices are not followed and individuals touch their nose or mouth, transmission of the virus can occur.
In the United States, there are three previously detected variants of swine influenza type A viruses that can cause disease in humans: H1N1v, H3N2v, and H1N2v. Pigs that are infected with any of these types of swine flu may exhibit signs of illness such as fever, depression, coughing (barking), discharge from the nose or eyes, sneezing, breathing difficulties, eye redness or inflammation, and going off feed. Not all influenza-infected pigs will show signs of illness or may only be mildly ill. Swine flu can circulate at any time of the year, but like the normal flu season for human influenza viruses, most outbreaks occur in the late fall and winter months.
In rare cases, humans that have come into direct contact with infected pigs might develop flu-like symptoms, such as fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. People have also reported signs of illness including runny nose, sore throat, eye irritation, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. For more information about swine flu in humans, please visit the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/swineflu/variant-flu-in-humans.htm.
It is also important to remember that 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. For more information about the proper handling and preparation of pork, visit the USDA website fact sheet Fresh Pork from Farm to Table.
The Georgia Department of Public Health works closely with partners at the Georgia Department of Agriculture on all animal and human related public health concerns.
Other Resources on Swine (Variant) Influenza:
CDC information on Swine/Variant Influenza - https://www.cdc.gov/flu/swineflu/index.htm
USDA APHIS information on Swine Influenza - https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/animal-disease-i…
Page last updated 11/16/23