5 May 2009

What is the swine flu?

On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that 40 cases of swine flu have been confirmed in the United States. People have fallen ill in several states. All of those who have come down with the flu have either recovered or are recovering. Many of them visited Mexico recently.
The flu is taking a serious toll on Mexico. Officials believe that swine flu may have sickened 1,614 people since April 13. The virus is suspected to have caused more than 100 deaths. The Mexican government has closed all public schools and canceled hundreds of public events in the country's capital, Mexico City. Soldiers handed out six million face masks, hoping the masks will stop the spread of the virus.
Governments around the world are taking steps to stop the spread of the illness. They are questioning travelers and encouraging citizens to take precautions. The WHO is keeping a close watch on the situation. No one wants the illness to become a pandemic (pan-dem-ik), or worldwide outbreak. In 1918, the severe "Spanish flu" killed an estimated 40 to 50 million people worldwide. But the world is better prepared for a flu outbreak today. Antiviral drugs can help fight swine flu. Doctors and hospitals are better equipped than they were 100 years ago.
Here are answers to questions you may have about swine flu:
What is swine flu?
Swine influenza, or flu, is a respiratory disease of pigs. Type A influenza viruses cause it. Humans do not normally get swine flu. But when they do, infections are believed to spread from person to person. The Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) has determined that swine flu is contagious.
How does swine flu spread?
Flu viruses are mainly spread when someone who is infected coughs or sneezes near another person. Droplets from an infected sneeze move through the air. Sometimes people become infected when they touch a surface that is infected and then touch their mouth or nose.
Can I get swine flu from eating pork?
No. The flu is not spread through eating or preparing food.
Are there medicines to treat swine flu?
Yes. Your doctor can prescribe drugs that will help you feel better.
Should I be worried?
Officials say that the swine flu situation is serious. You should take precautions, but there is no need for you to worry.
On Sunday, the U.S. government declared a public health emergency. The government is working hard to determine how best to deal with the flu outbreak. More than 12 million doses of flu-fighting medications are being shipped to states. President Barack Obama said on Monday that the threat of spreading swine flu infections is a matter of concern but "not a cause for alarm."
What can I do?
• Wash your hands often with soap or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
• Cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then throw the tissue in the trash.
• If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your arm rather than your hand.
• Let your parents know if you are not feeling well.
• Stay home from school if you are sick.
Time for Kids, by Nellie Gonzalez Cuttler

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