Get the Facts!
Following the widespread outbreak of a new strain of influenza, referred to as Swine Flu late last year, both the media and the public went into a tailspin as they tried to pin down facts about the disease. Was Swine Flu deadly? Could it be treated? How did you contract it?
Fortunately, there have been thorough investigations conducted by multiple medical, science and research teams, such as those at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). From them, we’ve been able to glean some facts about the disease to help get you informed about what exactly Swine Flu is and how to protect yourself from it.
What is Swine Flu?
Swine Flu (officially billed H1N1 Flu) is named such because it is a respiratory disease caused by influenza viruses, and is frequently found among pigs. While it is uncommon for humans can contract the disease, it is possible, and is done so by person-to-person contact.
According to the CDC, just how easily Swine Flu can be spread is still unknown. However, the way it is spread is essentially the same as the way seasonal flu is spread: via coughing, sneezing or coming into contact with surfaces that contain traces of the virus. The disease cannot, however, be contracted by eating pork any other food product of pigs.
What are the Symptoms?
Those infected with the flu can spread the disease before symptoms appear and up to seven days after becoming ill.
The symptoms of Swine Flu are similar to those of the common flu, namely including fever, cough, sore throat, body ache, chills and fatigue. Some reported cases of the disease have included symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting.
The severity of Swine Flu can vary from mild to severe.
How is it Prevented?
The most important precaution you can take to prevent contracting the disease is to wash your hands thoroughly, and often. Be especially careful to wash hands after being in crowded public places like subway systems, airports, movie theaters or shopping malls.
Many of the precautions are just good common sense. Try to stay in good health by eating nutritiously, drinking lots of fluids (mainly water), sleeping a sufficient amount and staying active.
You should also avoid touching your eyes nose and mouth as it is the easiest way to spread germs. Clean all surface areas, especially kitchens and those where food is being prepared, thoroughly. Also try to avoid coming into contact with those who are already sick, with the flu or otherwise.
Another means of protection, according to the CDC, are antiviral drugs, prescription medications that work to prevent the flu by halting virus reproduction in the body. They shorten the lifespan of the flu and lessen symptoms, if already infected. It’s best to start taking antiviral drugs within two days of experiencing symptoms.
News About Swine Flu: The Vaccine Has Been Approved!
On September 15, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the new Swine Flu vaccine. The government is now working to start mass vaccinations next month. According to Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, the first doses are anticipated to be dolled out the first week in October, then 45 million does are expected to be available on the 15th, with more following each week. In total, the government ordered 195 million does, and will order more if necessary. The vaccine will be available in over 90,000 schools and clinics. There are certain people the government thinks need to be vaccinated first: pregnant women, those between the ages of six months and 24 years, those under the age of 65 who have conditions such as diabetes, asthma or heart disease and people such as health workers, who are providing care to at-risk patients.
Wash Your Hands!
It’s the easiest and most important way to protect yourself from viruses, diseases and flu this season; but also the most overlooked. It’s imperative that you wash your hands as frequently as possible, especially before eating or drinking. But as easy as it sounds (and absolutely is), you must make sure you are washing your hands correctly. Merely swishing your hands under the faucet for 3 seconds will not do. Make sure you use clean, warm water and soap with an alcohol-based hand cleanser (a dime or quarter-sized amount, no droplets) for at least 15 to 20 seconds. Clean the whole hand, including the backs and wrist (germs can travel outside the palms, you know). When soap and water aren’t readily available, use alcohol-based hand wipes or sanitizing gels such as Purell, frequently. Then be sure to rub or shake hands until completely dry. Be extra vigilant about washing after spending time in crowded public places like subways, airports, movie theaters and shopping malls. You’ll be doing both yourself and others a favor if you do.