Swine flu (H1N1) has been in the news since it first appeared this spring, and while there have been deaths and hospitalizations in countries worldwide, most cases have been relatively mild. And now, there is an H1N1 swine fluvaccine, too.
That's the good news. But the bad news is, swine flu can still be serious, and it's still widespread.
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Your best bet is to get both vaccines. Seasonal flu can be serious, especially for infants, elders, and people with weak immune systems. The CDC notes that seasonal flu or its complications kill an average of 36,000 people per year in the U.S. and hospitalize more than 200,000 people.
Getting vaccinated each year against seasonal flu is the single best way to protect against seasonal flu, according to the CDC.
2. Don't count on a face mask to prevent swine flu infection.
According to the CDC, it's not clear how effective face masks are at preventing the transmission of the H1N1 or seasonal influenza viruses. The same is true for N95 respirators worn snugly over the face as filters.
The CDC doesn't recommend face masks or respirators in most settings to avoid catching swine flu, except if you're at high risk of severe illness from influenza and are caring for someone who has a flu-like illness, or for high-risk people who can't avoid being in a crowded setting where the swine flu virus is present.
But the CDC does recommend that sick people wear a face mask to avoid spreading their illness if they must be in close contact with other people. However, don't rely on a face mask as your only protection -- you still need to take other swine flu prevention steps: