Swine flu is a certified outbreak for citizens of North America and the U.S. has declared it a public health emergency. Here’s what you need to know about the deadly virus.
What is Swine flu?:Swine flu, or Swine Influenza, occurs when a type A influenza virus spreads throughout the pig community. It can occur throughout the year, but most of the time spreads through late fall and winter, just like the flu in humans. It was first discovered in 1930. Swine flu infections in humans are very rare, but do happen when people are in close contact with pigs. The flu is not spread by eating properly-cooked pork.
Where has it hit?: Most documented cases of the illness have been in Mexico this time, but the United States has confirmed 20 cases of the flu. "There are eight cases confirmed in New York City, there’s one case confirmed in Ohio, two in Kansas, two in Texas, and seven in California," said Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
What can I do to protect myself?: According to the CDC, there are several steps you can take to stay healthy.
-Contain your germs. Be sure to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Toss the tissue after use.
-Cleanliness is key. Wash your hands often with an antibacterial soap.
-Location, location, location. Residents of San Diego or Imperial counties in California and Guadalupe County in Texas must be even more careful. If you come down with flu-like symptoms (fever, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, etc.) contact your doctor.
-Play hookie. If you experience the flu, don’t go to school or work or anywhere else where you could infect others. Avoid touching your face (eyes, nose and mouth).
What is the government doing to address this outbreak?: According to the Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the government have declared the outbreak a public health emergency, which "allows us to free up federal, state, and local agencies and their resources for prevention and mitigation." The feds are also giving up access to antiviral goodies. "We have 50 million treatment courses of antiviral drugs — Tamiflu and Relenza — in the strategic national stockpile," said Janet. "We are releasing 25 percent of those courses, making them available to all of the states, but particularly prioritizing the states where we already have confirmed incidents of the flu. In addition, the Department of Defense has procured and strategically prepositioned 7 million treatment courses of Tamiflu."
For more information about swine influenza, the CDC has a comprehensive Webpage available at cdc.gov/swineflu.
— Whitney Teal