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Swine Flu: How to Avoid It

Pig
Photo by The Pug Father via Flickr

If you haven’t heard about the swine flu by now, then you have probably been living in a cave completely cut off from the outside world.  The swine flu outbreak is the biggest news right now.  At this point it seems to have even overshadowed the economy.

Everywhere you turn, someone is talking about the swine flu and how it is spreading at an increasing rate.  If you are afraid of what some people say might become a flu pandemic, don’t get carried away. There are things that you can do to protect yourself and stay healthy.

What is swine flu?
What is currently called swine flu, is an influenza virus that got it’s name from the fact that when it was first discovered, it was noted that many of the genes it contained were similar to ones found in swine influenza in North American pigs.  Further testing later showed that it was actually a combination of two strains of swine influenza, one strain of avian influenza and one strain of human influenza.  Since it isn’t completely a swine flu, it is more accurate to call it Influenza A (H1N1), which is the scientific name for this type of strain.

The symptoms of Influenza A (H1N1) are similar to the regular seasonal flu.  They include fever, coughing, lack of appetite, runny nose, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting and lethargy.  Currently, there is no vaccine to protect humans from this strain of Influenza A (H1N1), but there are ways to minimize your chances of getting it.

What is the best way to avoid the swine flu?
The virus can be transmitted in the same way as the seasonal flu.  This is by direct contact with someone who is infected, usually through the coughing and sneezing of the infected person.  Knowing that can help keep you from becoming infected because you can take the following simple precautions:

  1. Avoid touching objects used by sick people: Don’t share objects with flu sufferers, such as drinking cups, pens, towels or even bars of soap.
  2. Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing: Use a tissue and dispose of it properly in the waste basket.  You can also wear a surgical mask when sick.  This is more important if you come in contact with young children, the elderly or people with compromised immune systems, such as those undergoing chemotherapy treatments.
  3. Wash your hands frequently: Washing your hands is the most effective way to keep it from spreading.  Make sure to use soap and warm water.  If you cough, sneeze or are around people who are sick, wash your hands right away and frequently.
  4. Don’t touch your eyes, mouth and nose: If you come in contact with the virus, you don’t want to give the virus access to your body.
  5. Cook your pork products: You can continue to enjoy your pork products as long as they are cooked at the right temperature (which you should be doing anyway).  Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160F/72C will kill the swine flu virus or other viruses and bacteria, making it safe for consumption.

The bottom line:
At this time, there does not seem to be anything to be afraid of when it comes to swine flu.  There are things that you can do to protect yourself from it.  So, be proactive and stay healthy during this epidemic.  And if you believe that you or one of your family members have Influenza A (H1N1), please see your doctor.  For more updates and information on the swine flu outbreak, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization.

Comments (2)

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  1. Benoy says:

    thanks for the info! got here from your twitter post.

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