The deadly disease has started to emerge in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Hong Kong, worrying public health officials and leading many consumers to wonder how they can stay safe.
Here are some suggestions from the Centers for Disease Control to help you proceed with caution.
What is Swine Flu? Swine flu is a respiratory disease in pigs caused by Type A influenza viruses. Though people do not normally contract swine flu, they can become ill with the disease through contact with pigs. The illness is highly contagious and is easily passed from person to person. However, you cannot get swine flu from eating pork. Writing on Grist, Tom Philpott theorizes that the disease is linked to factory farms in Mexico, where polluted water and air from concentrated animal feed lots expose workers and nearby residents to pigs and their illnesses. Once one person is exposed, it becomes easy for the virus to spread.
How will I recognize Swine Flu if I have it? Symptoms include fever, diahrrea, runny nose, vomiting, dizziness, shortness of breath and irritability.
How serious is the current Swine Flu outbreak? According to the Centers for Disease Control, as of April 27, 40 cases of the illness had been reported in the U.S.: in Kansas, California, Ohio, New York City, and Texas. There have been no deaths in the U.S. to date. Mexican health authorities have confirmed 149 deaths and over 1,600 cases reported. Public health officials around the globe are tracking the disease for signs that it will turn into an epidemic, though for the moment there is no reason for alarm.
How Can I Stay Healthy?
1) Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then throw the tissue away.
2) Wash your hands often with soap and hot water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (not an antibacterial sanitizer, which is ineffective against flu virus).
3) Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, since that is how germs spread more easily through the body.
4) Avoid close contact with someone who appears to be sick (look for symptoms like a runny nose, cough or sneezing, and fever).
5) If you feel like you are getting sick, contact your doctor immediately. Don't go into the office or emergency room until they are prepared for you, so you will avoid contaminating others. Stay home from work or school.
6) If you are planning to travel to Mexico, check with the CDC, the U.S. State Department or your local doctor. Since the most serious outbreaks of swine flu appear to be in Mexico, you may want to postpone your trip until you can be sure your health will not be jeopardized.