Keeping the H1N1 flu outbreak in perspective

April 29, 2009 6:02:15 PM PDT
What's happening with the swine flu is concerning, because so little is known about how this virus acts

Still health officials are preparing for the worst... Trying to contain the spread of the virus.

But the current outbreak of H1N1 swine flu serves as a reminder of how dangerous ANY flu virus can be.

This year, the conventional influenza took the lives of 55 children, actually one of the lowest tallies in recent times. During the 2007-2008 season, more than 80 children died.

Whether swine flu will prove to be more deadly is still unknown.

Some doctors believe the flu seems more serious in Mexico because we are only hearing about the worst cases.

Dr. Gerry Zuckerman, of Albert Einstein Medical Center, says, "We don't know how many people in Mexico may be infected. The number of unreported cases may be much larger, so the percentage of deaths may be lower."

In fact, 5-year-old Edgar Hernandez of La Gloria, Mexico, one of the first to get the swine flu is healthy now. So are others in his family and town who got sick.

Doctors say fighting swine flu, or any influenza, is up to each person.

"Carry tissues with you, so you're able to cough and sneeze into them," says Dr. Zuckerman.

Wash your hands often with soap and water.

Avoid touching your hands to your mouth or nose. That's how germs get into our bodies.

If you are sick, don't go out, and don't let anyone sick in your household go out.

Face mask factories are stepping up production.

But experts say the average person shouldn't use them - they can give a false sense of security. And they are designed for a single use, and can easily get loaded with germs

Last winter's flu vaccine probably won't offer protection, because it was developed for different flu strains.

Dr. Marla Gold, an infectious disease doctor and dean of Drexel University's School of Public Health, says we need a vaccine specifically designed for swine flu for next year.

"The largest concern that public health people have is that this is a quick showing of disease. It'll be over, but that the same disease will be around next year," says Dr. Gold.

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