At some level, we all know that becoming riddled with fear doesn't help. So let's take action where we can. Be cautious where necessary and get the relevant information we need.
Let's first define swine flu. The name itself is horrible -- a visual image of filthy pigs wallowing in murky muck. And that image isn't too far off from its origins. So maybe the swine aren't bathing in muddy waters but this type of influenza is a contagious respiratory virus that affects pigs.
So why is it spreading to more humans now? In the past there have been limited instances where the virus has spread to people, but it had never gone beyond three people. As of right now, scientists aren't sure how some cases have occurred without any contact to pigs.
What are the symptoms? They're similar to flu-like symptoms: high fever and chills, lethargy, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, lack of appetite, coughing, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, and headaches.
How does it spread? The same way the flu does. A person is put at risk two ways: If an infected person coughs or sneezes on them, or if they touch something that has the flu virus on it and then they touch their mouth, nose or eyes. However, what makes it sometimes difficult to prevent is that an infected person can pass the virus along even before any symptoms develop. But there are precautions that we can take.
What precautions can we take to help prevent the spread of the virus?
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the kleenex into the garbage.
- Wash, wash, wash. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze and before eating. Hand sanitizers that are alcohol-based can also be effective.
- Germs spread by touching your eyes, nose or mouth so avoid this.
- If you think you're sick, avoid any close contact such as hugging, kissing and even shaking hands.
Watch for signs and symptoms in you and members of your family. The first few days are when the virus is most contagious so keep your children home if these symptoms exhibit themselves or stay home from work.
Can swine flu be fatal? We've already heard of some fatalities but we also need to think of statistics -- mainly stratified statistics. These deaths -- like many flu deaths -- are most likely people with already compromised immune systems, such as the elderly, infants, or sickly people. If we look at the statistics in a generally healthy population, the numbers may be virtually nil.
Are there any vaccines or medicines available to treat the swine flu? As of now, there aren't any vaccines available but we can still take those preventative measures listed above. And if infected, the CDC recommendds anti-viral medications so that the virus can't reproduce inside the body.
Let's live in the present and use wisdom with our choices, eliminating fear and encouraging awareness.