27 April 2009

Swine Flu 101

Just when you thought that the global recession is the only thing to worry about, along comes a health scare that leaves scores of people dying across the Mexican border. So what exactly is Swine Flu in layman's terms? Apparently it's a common respiratory ailment in pigs (1% to 4% die) but the strain that's causing human deaths now appears to be a subtype never before seen in pigs OR humans. It also has a component from bird flu and human flu -- now, isn't that scary?? Uber-mutated virus if there's such a term! Hehe! Anyway here's a Q&A writeup from USA Today about swine flu. Read and be informed on how to protect yourself from the flu. You can also read more at www.cdc.gov ^_^

Q: What are the symptoms of swine flu?
A: The most common symptoms are fever, fatigue, lack of appetite and coughing, although some people also develop a runny nose, sore throat, vomiting or diarrhea, according to the CDC.

Q: What should you do if you have these symptoms?
A: Stay home from work or school, to avoid spreading your illness to other people. Don't get on an airplane. People should call their doctors to ask about the best treatment, but should not simply show up at a clinic or hospital that is unprepared for their arrival.

Q: Can you catch swine flu from eating pork?
A: No, according to WHO. Pigs coming in to slaughter facilities are monitored for flu symptoms, and those that are ill are not allowed to enter the food supply. Cooking also kills the virus. People who work with pigs, however, can catch the swine flu virus.

Q: Is there a vaccine against swine flu?
A: No, but government scientists could try to create one, according to the CDC. The scientists don't know if this year's flu vaccine offers any protection.

Q: What about antivirals? Can they prevent swine flu?
A: This strain of swine flu does appear sensitive to the antiviral drugs Relenza and Tamiflu, but not to amantadine, or Symmetrel, and rimantadine, or Flumadine. With normal seasonal flus, if taken within the first 48 hours after symptoms appear, antivirals can help people recover a day or two sooner.

Q: How can people protect themselves?
A: As always, people should wash their hands frequently. Surgical masks are designed to prevent the wearer from spreading germs, but may also catch large respiratory droplets if someone sneezes nearby. In a 2007 statement, the CDC said these masks could be worn if someone needs to go to a crowded place, such as a grocery store, for a short time. N95 respirator masks filter out 95% of particles to prevent the wearer from breathing them in. These must be fitted properly around the nose to create a seal, so they can make breathing difficult.
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