Swine Flu: 14 Things You Need to Know to Keep Yourself Safe

Frequent questions and their answers. The best defense right now? Stay on top of the news.

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What other things can I do to get my family prepared?


It never hurts to think about what you would do if swine flu hits your community hard, the CDC's Besser says. That may mean that schools would be closed, as has been done in Mexico. The federal government's pandemic flu website has suggestions on getting ready at home and at work. One example: Do you have enough food in the house to feed your family if you had to stay home for a week? You can also check with your employer to make sure the company has a plan in case of a flu pandemic. And you can prepare yourself for the possibility you'd have to work from home for a while. Is it dangerous to eat pork?


No. This flu virus is spread from person to person by touching surfaces infected with the virus or by inhaling viruses from someone coughing. You can't get swine flu from eating pork. What should I do if I or someone in my family is sick?


"Calling the doctor is never the wrong thing to do," says Mark Metursky, a professor of medicine at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and immediate past chair of the chest infection network for the American College of Chest Physicians. You'll know you have the flu and not just a cold if you've got a fever of 102 or more, a headache, and muscle aches. "If you have a respiratory infection with fever, don't go to work or school," says Duchin. To minimize the risk of infecting others, avoid traveling by air and taking public transportation if you have the flu.

People aren't at risk of swine flu for now, Metursky says, unless they have traveled to Mexico of are exposed to someone who has.

What medications work against swine flu?


Laboratory tests suggest this swine flu is susceptible to the antiviral drugs Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir). To be effective, these drugs need to be taken as soon as possible after a person has flu symptoms. "The sooner you talk to your doctor the better," Metursky says. The CDC has new recommendations for using antivirals to treat swine flu; people who are sick and have recently been to Mexico or who have been exposed to people with swine flu should speak with a doctor about whether to take an antiviral medication. Should I stockpile Tamiflu?


The federal government doesn't recommend that people stockpile Tamiflu at home, saying it should be saved for people who are sick with influenza now. But many public health scientists have set aside some Tamiflu for themselves in the past few years because of concern about the possibility of a pandemic caused by bird flu. It's your call. [Is Tamiflu safe for kids?]

I'm not sick. Should I avoid traveling?


This might not be the wisest time to vacation in Cancun, but travel hasn't been banned by the CDC and WHO, so it's up to you. Airlines will let passengers to certain destinations re-book their trips at no cost. Check the CDC or WHO website before traveling, because the advisories could change at any time. Why has the swine flu been deadly in Mexico but not in the U.S.?


No one knows for sure. It could be that Americans who've gotten infected had better, faster access to health care. Or it could be that the U.S. is just at an earlier stage in the outbreak, Duchin says. If that's the case, U.S. deaths could occur as the outbreak matures. Where do I look for more news on swine flu?


The CDC's new swine flu website is a good place to start, for information both on the state of the outbreak and on how to keep your family healthy. Other good options:

  • The World Health Organization is tracking swine flu cases worldwide.
  • The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy is following swine flu, bird flu, and the possibility of a flu pandemic.
  • The Infectious Diseases Society of America gears its swine flu news to doctors, but that information on treatment and avoidance is useful for individuals, too.
  • The federal government's pandemic flu website provides a broad range of information on preparing for a pandemic.
  • [Do you have the flu or just a cold? How to tell the difference]