Human cases of swine influenza have been reported in the United States, Mexico and other countries during the past week. This new virus is a hybrid, with genetic elements of swine influenza, avian influenza, and human influenza. The Department of Health and Human Services issued a nationwide public health emergency declaration in response to the human infections.
There is no vaccine to protect humans against swine flu. Because this is a new strain, seasonal flu shots do not protect people, so good hygiene is important to help prevent the spread of germs. The influenza is spread by coughing, sneezing and unclean hands. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands.
- Put used tissues in the trash.
- Clean your hands after coughing or sneezing. Wash with soap and water, or with alcohol-based hand cleaner.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- If you get sick, stay home from work or school, and limit your contact with others to keep from infecting them. Adults should not leave home until 7 days after symptoms begin; children should stay home 10 days after the onset of illness.
People cannot get swine flu from pork or pork products.
If you suspect your child has influenza, call your pediatrician. Antiviral medication, if taken soon after infection, can shorten the duration of the illness. These medications are effective against swine flu.
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