You can protect yourself from the deadly swine flu virus by understanding how it spreads and blocking its access to your respiratory tract, say Harvard Medical School influenza experts. The influenza virus is extremely contagious and no vaccine is yet available for the new strain of swine influenza now emerging.
Swine flu and other types of influenza that jump from animals to humans are particularly dangerous because humans haven’t had the chance to build immunity against them. The United States government declared a public health emergency as a result of an increasing number of cases of swine flu that is spreading in the United States and around the globe.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have expressed concern that the illness could turn into a global pandemic. Individuals can protect themselves with 5 basic steps:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap.
- Don’t touch your nose, eyes, or mouth unless you have thoroughly washed your hands.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who is coughing, sneezing, or has other flu symptoms.
- Follow the travel restriction guidelines issued by the CDC.
- If the swine flu is known to be in your community, avoid large group gatherings and public transportation. Stay home from work and school if possible.
To obtain in-depth information on swine flu, you can read the Harvard Health Publications Special Health Report, Swine Flu: How to understand your risk and protect your health. The report explains what the illness is, how it is diagnosed and treated, and how families and businesses can protect themselves against it—written in language that anyone can understand. The report can be purchased and downloaded electronically in PDF file format from the HHP Web site.
The 43-page Special Health Report answers questions such as:
- What is an influenza virus, and how does it cause infection?
- What is swine flu, and what is a pandemic?
- What are the symptoms of swine flu, and how are they different from regular flu?
- How serious and contagious could the swine flu epidemic be?
- What has happened in past pandemics of influenza?
- Is a vaccine available?
- How is swine flu treated?
- What can I do to protect myself and my family?
- What should I expect if a pandemic hits?
- How can businesses prepare for a swine flu pandemic?
Harvard Health Publications also maintains a Flu Resource Center that includes the latest information on the number of reported swine flu cases, the number of deaths, the countries where cases have been reported, travel restrictions, and other frequently changing information, as well as general influenza information.
Harvard Health Publications will frequently update the Special Health Report itself, as major new developments occur in this dynamic new epidemic. People who purchase the Report on our Web site will receive e-mails alerting them that an updated version of the report is available to them, for free, from the Harvard Health Publications Web site.
Swine Flu: How to understand your risk and protect your health is available for $18 from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School.