Difference between swine flu and bird flu

The misinformation and rumor mongers are trying to create a lot of panic among general public who through hospitals and medical stores for scheduled medicines. Even there are rumors doing rounds in the valley that eating chicken may cause swine flu but this is not true. In fact it has been found that eating protein rich diet increases the immunity of the person to deal with this virus. The medical experts have been recommending fish and chicken consumption tone up the immunity.


In fact people tend to use the words “Swine Flu” and “Bird Flu” interchangeably especially in light of the current HINI outbreak that is making people all over the world sick with the virus. However, these two are not the same and are actually two distinct strains of the influenza virus.


There is a difference between pig and poultry or pig and sheep. However, people in Kashmir are confused and fooled by some elements who are bent on destroying the livestock industry particularly broiler farming in the v alley. Swine flue virus is not transmitted by consuming Chicken or Mutton. It is pertinent to mention that influenza viruses are inactivated by normal temperatures used for cooling meat products and eggs which can be definitely consumed provided they are properly handled during food preparation and thoroughly cooked. Cooking kills and flu virus so even infected meat is also safe if cooked properly.


Bird Flu Or Avian Influenza:


Bird flu is a viral disease caused by H5N1 virus which is carried by animals especially birds. It is characterized by a rapid spread and sudden death. It affects people around the world particularly from Asian, European, Middle East and African Countries. These viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds and animal species. Wild aquatic birds can be infected with avian influenza, A viruses in their intestines and respiratory tract but usually do not get sick. However, avian influenza A viruses are very contagious among birds and some of these viruses can sicken and even kill certain domesticated birds especially chicken, ducks and turkey.


Avian Influenza A viruses are classified into following two categories as:


•Low Pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) A Viruses

•Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A Viruses.

Swine Flu:

Outbreaks of swine flu in humans dates back to the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic which      infected one third of the World’s population (an estimated 50 crore people) when the cause of human influenza and its links to bird flu (avian influenza) and swine influenza was not understood. The answers did not begin to emerge until the 1930s, when related influenza viruses (now known as H1N1 viruses)  were isolated from pigs and then humans. The severity of H1N1 influenza (previously termed as swine influenza) can vary from mild illness to severe complications and out breaks are reported worldwide.

Currently in 2013, India has reported H1N1 influenza outbreak and virologists said the same California strain of 2009 was responsible for the disease here as well. Fortunately, it has been reported that H1N1 (swine flue) virus has not mutated and patients are still responding to Oseltamivir (Tamiflu).

Clinical manifestation (Symptoms):

H1N1 (Swine flu) manifests similarity to those of seasonal (flu). The transmission is by droplet infection and formites (non living objects). The symptoms may appear after a period of 1-7 days after contracting H1N1 infection. However, it is transmitted from 1 day before to 7 days after the outset of symptoms of  illness persists for more than 7 days chances of communicability may persist till resolution of illness. Children may spread the virus for a longer period.

Patients present with symptoms of acute respiratory illness, including at least 2 of the following viz, fever, cough sore throat, body aches, head ache, chills and fatigue. Diarrhea and vomiting. In children signs of severe disease include breathlessness, fast breathing, cyanosis dehydration, altered mental status and extreme irritability. The above symptoms can be categorized as under.

Category –A:

•Patients with mild fever plus cough/sore throat with or without body ache, head ache, diarrhea and vomiting.

•Patients should confine themselves at home and avoid mixing up with public.

Category – B:   In addition to all the signs and symptoms mentioned under category –A the following symptoms may be observed.

•Children with mild illness but with predisposing risk factors .

•Pregnant women

•Persons aged 65 years or older

•Patients with lung diseases, lung diseases, heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, blood disorders, diabetes, cancer and HIV/AIDS.

•Patients on long term corticosone therapy.

All patients of category B should confine themselves at home and avoid mixing with public.


Category-C: In addition to the above signs and symptoms the patient has one or more of the following.

•Breathlessness, chest pain, drowsiness, fall in blood pressure, sputum mixed with blood. Bluish discoloration of nails.

•Children with influenza like illness who had a severe disease as manifested by the red flag signs.

Risk Factors:


The following groups of people have been identified as risk factors.

•Infants and young children particularly less than 2 years old.

•Pregnant women.

•Persons of any age with chronic pulmonary disease.

•Persons of any age with chronic cardiac disease.

•Persons with metabolic disorders e.g diabetes.

•Persons with chronic renal disease, chronic hepatic disease.

•Haemoglobinopathies or immunosuppressiuoin. 

•Children receiving chronic aspirin therapy.

•Persons aged 65 years and older

DO’s and DON’Ts in Swine Flu (H1N1 Influenza):


•Wash your hands frequently with disinfectant soap and water.

•It is always recommended to cover your mouth and nose while coughing and sneezing.

•Get plenty of sleep.

•Drink plenty of water.

•Eat nutritious food, in fact it has been found that eating protein rick diets increases the immunity of the person.

•Get yourself checked in case of high fever and breathlessness.

•Keep your surroundings clean.

•Disinfect  the waste material from affected person adequately with available disinfectants and dispose off securely. 


•Don’t panic  H1N1 usually has mild course of illness unless the affected person is a high risk one like infants and young children, elderly, pregnant with other chronic diseases of lungs, liver, heart etc.

•Don’t touch your mouth and nose before washing your hands properly.

•Avoid close contact with an infected person.

•Avoid visiting relatives, friends, admitted in hospitals.

•Don’t start taking anti-influenza drugs unless prescribed by doctors in hospitals.


Difference between swine flu and bird flu:

•Swine flu spreads quickly compared to bird flu and has high morbidity rate.

•Swine flu affects only respiratory system but bird flu affects all the systems of human body.

•The main symptoms of swine flu are vomittion and diarrhea apart from cough, fever and sore throats. However patients suffering from bird flu show eye infection, pneumonia and other severe problems.

•Bird flu is transmitted by direct contact with birds and their excretory products. Swine flu is transmitted from direct contact with animals particularly pigs and from person to person.

•Pregnant women, persons with chronic medical conditions are most vulnerable targets to swine flu. However, persons associated with poultry farming, poultry processing units and people living rural areas are the soft targets to infection of bird flu

Author is Associate Director Extension (Animal Sciences) Shere-e-Kasjhmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Kashmir.

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