10 things to know about H1N1 (swine) flu.
10 things to know about H1N1 flu
So how worried should you be about swine flu, and how do you prepare? Here, the mass of information is boiled down into 10 things you should know to be flu-savvy:
1 There's no cause for panic. So far, swine flu isn't much more threatening than regular seasonal flu. During the few months of this new flu's existence, hospitalizations and deaths from it seem to be lower than the average seen for seasonal flu, and the virus hasn't dramatically mutated. Still, more people are susceptible to swine flu and U.S. health officials are worried because it has hung around here so firmly during the summer.
2 Virus is tougher on some. Swine flu is more of a threat to certain groups -- children younger than 2, pregnant women and people with health problems like asthma, diabetes and heart disease. Teens and young adults also are more vulnerable. Seasonal flu hits older people hardest, but not swine flu. Scientists think older people may have some immunity from exposure years earlier to similar viruses.
3 Wash your hands often and long. Like seasonal flu, swine flu spreads through coughs and sneezes of people who are sick. Emphasize to children that they should wash with soap and water long enough to finish singing the alphabet song. Also use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
4 Get the kids vaccinated. People 6 months to 24 years old, pregnant women and health-care workers should be first in line for swine flu shots, especially if vaccine supplies are limited. Also a priority: Parents and caregivers of infants and people with those high-risk medical conditions previously noted.
5 Get your shots early. Millions of swine flu shots should be available by October. If you are in one of the priority groups, try to get your shot as early as possible. Check with your doctor or local or state health department about where to do this. Many children should be able to get vaccinated at school. Permission forms will be sent home in advance.
6 Immunity takes awhile. Even those first in line for shots won't have immunity until about Thanksgiving. That's because it's likely to take two shots, given three weeks apart, to provide protection. And it takes a week or two after the last shot for the vaccine to take full effect.
7 Vaccines are being tested. Health officials presume the swine flu vaccine is safe and effective, but they're testing it to make sure. The federal government has begun studies in eight cities across the country to assess its effectiveness and figure out the best dose. Vaccinemakers are doing their own tests as well.
8 Surrounded by swine flu? If an outbreak of swine flu hits your area before you're vaccinated, be extra cautious. Stay away from public gathering places like malls, sports events and churches. Try to keep your distance from people. Keep washing those hands.
9 What if you get sick? If you have other health problems or are pregnant and develop flulike symptoms, call your doctor right away. You may be prescribed Tamiflu or Relenza. If you develop breathing problems (rapid breathing for kids), pain in your chest, constant vomiting or a fever that keeps rising, go to an emergency room. Most people, though, should just stay home and rest.
10 No swine flu from barbecue. You can't catch swine flu from pork. Swine flu is not spread by handling meat, raw or cooked.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
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