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 flu vaccine, too.
That's the good news. But the bad news is, swine flu can still be serious, and
it's still widespread.
Swine Flu Outbreak: Get the Facts
Get the latest swine flu facts and information from WebMD, the CDC and other
public health agencies.
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
Wash your hands
Cover your mouth and nose with a
tissue when coughing or sneezing.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose,
If you've got flu-like symptoms,
avoid others until you've been free of fever for 24 hours.
Stay at least 6 feet away from
people with flu-like illness.
If you do wear a face mask, don't
reuse it. Face masks should be worn once and then thrown out.
3. Don't hold or attend a swine flu party.
The guest of honor at a swine flu party is someone who's got swine flu. The
point is for other guests to catch the virus in the hopes that they'll have a
mild illness and gain immunity so that they won't get sick if the H1N1 virus
That's a bad idea, according to the CDC, because there's no way to know
whether swine flu will be severe or fatal in swine flu party guests -- or
anyone else that they, in turn, infect.