Questions And Answers About The Swine Flu
Here are a few basics about the swine flu outbreak in the U.S. and Mexico.
What is swine flu?
It's flu that occurs in pigs. In rare cases, humans contract swine flu from close contact with pigs. The strain circulating now is cause for concern because it can pass directly from person to person. Like routine human flu, cases of swine flu can range from mild to severe.
Is the disease the same in Mexico and the U.S.?
The virus appears to be the same. But the disease has caused at least 20 deaths in Mexico, while it has appeared more mild in the 20 confirmed U.S. cases, with no deaths and most patients recovering without needing to be hospitalized. It's unclear why confirmed cases have been more severe in Mexico than in the U.S. A CDC official warned on Sunday that as cases continue to emerge in the U.S., some may prove fatal.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms are similar to those of regular flu: fever, along with problems such as cough, sore throat, body aches, headaches, chills and fatigue. Some cases have also included reports of vomiting or diarrhea.
What should I do if I feel sick?
People with ordinary flu symptoms do not need to seek emergency care, New York City officials said. But people with certain warning signs in addition to basic symptoms should seek urgent attention. In children, those signs include difficulty breathing; bluish skin color; flu symptoms that begin to improve, then return with fever and worse cough; and fever with a rash. In adults, warning signs include difficulty breathing, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, and severe or persistent vomiting.
Can the swine flu be treated with drugs?
Two drugs, sold under the brand names Tamiflu and Relenza, are believed to reduce the severity and the duration of the disease. But most of the patients who contracted swine flu in the U.S. have recovered without taking the drugs. Both drugs have also been approved to reduce the risk of contracting the flu. But, unlike a vaccine, they do not provide long-lasting protection. So their preventive use is typically for short-term situations, such as for family members of someone who has the flu. The drugs, which are included in the federal government's pandemic stockpile, are only available with a doctor's prescriiption.
Does this year's flu vaccine protect against the swine flu?
The CDC says the seasonal flu vaccine is 'unlikely to provide protection' against the swine flu. The agency has created a 'seed vaccine' specifically tailored to this swine flu. That could be used to manufacture a targeted vaccine if officials deem it necessary to do so. But manufacturing a new vaccine would take months.
Are there ways to reduce the spread of disease?
Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Wash your hands often. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Avoid close contact with infected people. People who have mild symptoms should stay home from school or work until 48 hours after the symptoms have passed, to avoid spreading disease, New York health officials said.