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Putting Swine Flu in Perspective

7 Facts to Consider if You're Fearful About Swine Flu

7 Reasons Not to Over Worry

After a solid week of scary headlines about swine flu, it's time to take a step back, take a deep breath, and regain perspective. Here are seven points to consider:

  1. Most swine flu cases have been mild, so far. Severe cases have been seen mainly in Mexico, for reasons that aren't yet clear. But most swine flu patients have recovered without being hospitalized.
  2. You're not defenseless against swine flu. Simple things -- washing your hands, not touching your mouth, eyes, or nose, and trying to avoid close contact with sick people -- can go a long way toward reducing your risk.
  3. Most swine flu cases so far have been pretty much like normal, seasonal flu. Swine flu and seasonal flu share symptoms, and spread the same way.
  4. How much do you worry about seasonal flu? Maybe you should give garden-variety flu a little more respect. In a typical U.S. flu season, an average of 36,000 people die of flu or flu complications, and about 200,000 people are hospitalized. Swine flu hasn't come anywhere close to that.
  5. Swine flu's future is unknown. No one knows where swine flu is headed -- for better or for worse. "You don't know if it's going to fizzle out in a couple weeks or become more or less virulent or severe in the diseases it causes," CDC Acting Director Richard Besser, MD, said on April 29. "If we could see into the future [that] would be absolutely wonderful, but that's not the case. That's why we're being aggressive" in seeking to limit swine flu's impact on human health.
  6. The world is more prepared than ever. Remember bird flu? When that was the "it" virus several years ago, the global health community ramped up its pandemic preparations. As a result of that work, "the world is better prepared for an influenza pandemic than at any time in history," WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said on April 29.
  7. Pandemics aren't all deadly." If the World Health Organization declares swine flu a pandemic, that's all about the spread of the virus -- not the severity of the illness. In the past, some pandemics have been mild, while others have been severe, notes WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl, adding that "people should act with common sense, not with panic."

 Reporter Bill Hendrick contributed to this report.

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