Unless you live in a cave, or have eschewed radio, TV, and internet news, you are by now aware of the outbreak of swine flu. So why, you ask, is that crazy Dr. Robison posting about it on her blog?
Well, it turns out that SWINE flu had its origins in pigs, so that falls within my jurisdiction. It is one of the many zoonotic (spread from animals to humans) diseases we veterinarians have to be aware of so we can do our part to help deter their spread and keep the public informed. Now that the bug has mutated and jumped into humans, where it is having a grand time from all reports, it's technically not my concern anymore. But given my background in microbiology prior to veterinary medicine it's still interesting to me, so you all get to listen to me expound.
First off, there is no need to panic. Your pets cannot get infected by this swine flu, and are not a source, nor are they at risk. You CAN NOT catch swine flu from eating pork or any other food. Basic respiratory hygiene and etiquette is in order: wash your hands well with soap and water frequently, especially when you go out in public; cover your mouth with your ARM when you cough or sneeze (to keep the virus off your hands); avoid touching your hands to your face, particularly the nose, eyes, and mouth; if you have flu symptoms (fever, chills, cough, muscle aches, sore throat, occasionally vomiting or diarrhea) PLEASE do not go out in public to spread it.
If you are home sick with suspected flu, PLEASE do not use the opportunity to bring your cat to us for any non-critical services - the annual vaccinations and exam can and should wait until you are well. If you suspect you have the flu and your cat needs to be seen because of serious illness or injury, please advise us of your situation when you make your appointment so we can plan accordingly to minimize risk to other people.
If I or my staff come down with suspected flu, we may have to cancel appointments on short notice. If this happens, please understand it is in the interest of public health that we do so.
There are many excellent, reliable sources of information on swine flu on the internet:
LA County Public Health
Pandemic Flu federal gov't site
We will be following this outbreak closely, and if we need to take additional measures for public health reasons, we will keep you advised.