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What Do I Need to Know About Swine Flu?

Dr. Tanya Benenson, NBCUniversal Medical Director

What is swine flu?
It is a lot like our seasonal flu but it usually only affects pigs. This one, swine influenza A (H1N1), is affecting humans who have not been exposed to pigs. This suggests there might be human-to-human transmission. The mode of transmission is presumably respiratory droplets.

If I had the flu shot, am I protected?
No. The swine H1N1 is very different from the human H1N1 that is in the flu vaccine. Currently there is no human vaccine available for swine flu.

How can I prevent getting the flu?

·                  Hand washing or use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers (minimum concentration of 60 percent to 95 percent ethanol or isopropanol).

·                  Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as those are direct entry points for viruses. Viruses can get on your hands when you touch infected objects.

·                  Avoid close contact (6ft) with a sick person.
 Is there treatment for swine flu?
YES, Tamiflu and Relenza (both prescription medications) work on this virus but it needs to be started in the first 48 hours of symptoms. So it is important to contact your doctor right away if you have symptoms.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms are very similar to the human flu:

·                  Cough

·                  Fever/Chills

·                  Sore throat

·                  Fatigue/Body aches

·                  Decreased appetite

·                  Less commonly: runny nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea

If I think I have the flu, what should I do?
STAY HOME and contact your physician right away. This is not the time to be "tough" and go into work or school nor is it the time to travel. If you see your doctor, they might do a swab of your nose or mouth to confirm the virus. Your doctor would start you on treatment based on your symptoms and likelihood of having the illness. Don't be alarmed if your doctor's office has a sign posted, like in the SARS days, that tells you to put on a mask if you have flu-like symptoms. This is a routine precaution during an outbreak to protect health care workers as well as other patients in the office. We are all just being extra careful.

COVER YOUR COUGH and avoid close contact with others. You should maintain a distance of 6 ft between you and other people, even family members. If you need to COUGH or SNEEZE, cover it with a tissue and throw the tissue away. Alternatively if you have no tissue available, you can cough or sneeze into the elbow of your sleeve. You are trying to avoid spreading infected respiratory droplets around that others could pick up.

Is there reason to panic?
No. The Ministry of Health, WHO and other Departments have a good handle on the situation and are establishing a state of preparedness. If you follow the guidelines above, you will be protecting yourself.

Food Safety Tips

It’s important to refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared foods and leftovers within two hours or less. Keeping food cold (at or below 4°C/40°F) slows down bacterial growth.

It’s not safe to defrost food at room temperature. The best way to defrost food is to thaw it in a covered container on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.

To help reduce the risk of foodborne illness, wash hands before and after handling raw meat and fish, after using the washroom,  after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, after touching pets and after changing diapers.

To wash your hands properly, you must wash them for at least 20 seconds using soap and warm water and by rubbing your hands together.

Subpages (1): Know What You Eat