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Swine Flu: 10 Things Not to Do

Why you should nix swine flu parties, and other swine flu don'ts.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

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

Swine Flu Slideshow

Learn more about the H1N1 swine flu and see what you can do to stay healthy.

View the slideshow.

With that in mind, here are 10 swine flu "don'ts" -- things not to do for swine flu prevention.

1. Don't expect seasonal flu vaccination to prevent swine flu.

The seasonal flu vaccine doesn't protect against swine flu. The H1N1 swine flu vaccine is a separate vaccination.

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:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • 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 worsens.

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.  

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