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What is swine flu?



(All information correct at time of going to press)

Q: What is swine flu?
A: Pigs spread their ownstrains of influenza (flu)and every so often people who come into close contact with the animals catch it too. This new strain is a mixof Pig viruses with some human and bird Viruses. Unlike more typical Swine Flu, it is spreading from person-to-person. A 1976 outbreak of another unusual Swine Flu at Fort Dix,N.J., prompted aproblematic mass vaccination campaign but fortunately that time the flu fizzled out.
Q: What are the symptoms?
A: They're similar to regular human flu . a fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people also have diarrhea and vomiting.
Q: So is it safe to eat pork?
A: Yes. Swine influenza viruses don't spread through food.
Q: How do I protect myself and my family?
A: For Now, precautions can be taken using simple common sense. Sneeze into your elbow rather than your hand orCover your cough and sneezes with a tissue that you throw away in the bin after use. Wash hands frequently; if soap and water is not available hand gels can suffice. If you or your child is sick then stay athome at all times and do not let children go into school.
Q: How easy is it to catch this virus?
A: Scientists don't yet know if it takes fairly close or prolonged contact with someone who's sick, or if it's more easily spread. But in general, flu viruses spread through uncovered coughs and sneezes or . and this is important . by touching your mouth or nose with unwashed hands. Flu viruses can live on surfaces for several hours, like a doorknob just touched by someone who sneezed into his hand.
Q: In Mexico, officials are handing out face masks. Do I need one?
A: There's not enough evidence to support that masks really help outside of health care settings. It's safer just to avoid close contact with someone who's sick and avoid crowded gatherings in places where swine flu is known to be spreading. But if you can't do that, definitely consider a mask but just don't let it substitute for good precautions.
Q: Is swine flu treatable?
A: Yes, with the flu drugs Tamiflu or Relenza.
Q: Should I take Tamiflu as a precaution if I'm not sick yet?
A: No. "What are you going to do with it, use it when you get a sniffle?" asks Dr. Marc Siegel of New York University Langone Medical Center and author of "Bird Flu: Everything you Need To Know About The Next Pandemic." Overusing antiviral drugs can help germs become resistant to them.
Q: How big is my risk?
A: For most people, verylow. Outside of Mexico, so far clusters of illnesses seem related to Mexican travel. New York City's cluster, for instance, consists of students and family members at one school where some students came back ill from spring break in Mexico.
Q: Should I cancel my planned trip to Mexico?
A: The U.S. did issue a travel advisory guide discouraging nonessential travel there.
Q: What else is the U.S., or anyone else, doing to try to stop this virus?
A: The U.S. is beginning limited screening of travellers from Mexico, so that the obviously sick can be sent for treatment. Other governments have issued their own travel warnings and restrictions. Mexico is taking the biggest steps, closing and limiting crowded gatherings. In the U.S., communities with clusters of illness also may limit contact . New York closed the affected school for a few days, for example . so stay tuned to hear if your area is eventually affected.
Q: How do I know if I should see a doctor? Maybe my symptomsare from something else . like pollen?
A: Health authorities say if you live in places where swine flu cases have been confirmed, oryou recently travelled toMexico, or if you have flu like symptoms, ask your doctor if you need treatment or to be tested. Allergies won't cause a fever and run-of-the-mill stomach bugs won't be accompanied by respiratory symptoms, notes Dr. Wayne Reynolds of Newport News, Va., spokesman for the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Q: Is there a vaccine to prevent this new infection?
A: No. And CDC's initial testing suggests that last winter's flu shot didn't offer any cross-protection.
Q: How long would it take to produce a vaccine?
A: A few months. The US CDC has created what's called "seed stock" of the new virus that manufacturers would need to start production. But the government hasn't yet decided if the outbreak is bad enough to order that.
Q: And whatever happened to bird flu?Wasn't that supposedto be the next pandemic?
A: Specialists have long warned that the issue is a never-before-seen strain that people have little if any natural immunity to, regardless of whether it seems to originate from a bird or a pig. Bird flu hasn't gone away; scientists are tracking it, too.

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