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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Swine Flu Myths and Facts

Facts about swine flu and the current swine flu A (H1N1) oubreak include:

  • The last swine flu outbreak occurred in February 1976 in Fort Dix, New Jersey, causing 4 soldiers to get sick and 1 death.
  • A swine flu vaccine was given to people from October 1976 to December 1976 in response to the swine flu cases at Fort Dix. A swine flu pandemic never occurred though, and the swine flu vaccine was thought to cause many side effects, including Guillain-Barre syndrome. The vaccination program ended early because those side effects were thought to be worse than the risk of getting swine flu.
  • People can be contagious with swine flu for about one day before to seven days after their swine flu symptoms began.
  • Children may be contagious for more than seven days after their symptoms began.
  • The median age of infection in the United States with the swine flu A (H1N1) virus is 15 years and only about 10% of confirmed cases had a travel history to Mexico.

Swine Flu Myths

Myths about swine flu include:

  • Everyone is going to need three flu vaccines next fall/winter - one for seasonal flu and two for swine flu. (Myth - No one knows if a swine flu vaccine is going to be needed yet.)
  • Swine flu A (H1N1) with combine with bird flu (H5N1) and become a strain of influenza that both spreads easily and is very deadly. (Myth - While anything is possible and all influenza viruses have the ability to change, there is no evidence that this will happen.)
  • You can catch swine flu from eating pork. (Myth - The CDC states that it is safe to eat properly handled and cooked pork and pork products.)
  • The 1918 Influenza Pandemic was caused by a swine flu virus. (Myth - Research has actually found that it was caused by a virus related to several strains of flu including H1N1 among others.)
  • You can avoid the swine flu by wearing a facemask. (Probably a Myth - Little is actually known about whether a disposable facemask or respirator can prevent you from getting the swine flu.)
  • You should stay home until the swine flu outbreak is over. (Myth - While it is a good idea to stay home if you are sick and to follow your local public health advice about school closures and avoiding crowds. Simply staying home is otherwise not recommended by the CDC.)
  • A swine flu pandemic is inevitable and means that a lot of people will die, just like the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. (Myth - No one knows what is going to happen, but if this does become a pandemic with a lot of cases, the availability of antiviral flu medications, including Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir), 21st century health care, and the availability of a swine flu vaccine before next winter, should mean that we are ready for it.)
  • You should call your doctor to get some Tamiflu now just in case you need it later. (Myth - Stockpiling Tamiflu is a bad idea, since it may keep it out of the hands of people who need it now.)

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