Swine fluSwine flu: 10 things you should know

Published 1 September 2009

A White House report from an expert panel suggests that from 30 percent to half the U.S. population could catch swine flu during the course of this pandemic and that from 30,000 to 90,000 could die

Since it first emerged in April, the global swine flu epidemic has sickened more than 1 million Americans and killed about 500. It has also spread around the world, infecting tens of thousands and killing nearly 2,000.

Mike Stobbe writes in the Washington Post that that this summer, the virus has been surprisingly tenacious in the United States, refusing to fade away as flu viruses typically do. Health officials predict a surge of cases this fall, perhaps very soon as schools reopen.

A White House report from an expert panel suggests that from 30 percent to half the population could catch swine flu during the course of this pandemic and that from 30,000 to 90,000 could die.

How worried should you be and how do you prepare? The AP has boiled down the mass of information into ten things you should know to be flu-savvy.

1. No cause for panic

So far, swine flu is not much more threatening than regular seasonal flu. During the few months of this new flu’s existence, hospitalizations and deaths from it seem to be lower than the average seen for seasonal flu, and the virus has not dramatically mutated. That’s what health officials have observed in the Southern Hemisphere where flu season is now winding down.

Still, more people are susceptible to swine flu and U.S. health officials are worried because it hung in so firmly here during the summer - a time of year the flu usually goes away.

2. Virus tougher on some

Swine flu is more of a threat to certain groups — children under 2, pregnant women, people with health problems like asthma, diabetes, and heart disease. Teens and young adults are also more vulnerable to swine flu. Ordinary, seasonal flu hits older people the hardest, but not swine flu. Scientists think older people may have some immunity from exposure years earlier to viruses similar to swine flu.

3. Wash your hands often and long

Like seasonal flu, swine flu spreads through the coughs and sneezes of people who are sick. Emphasize to children that they should wash with soap and water long enough to finish singing the alphabet song, “Now I know my ABC’s…” Also use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

4. Get the kids vaccinated

These groups should be first in line for swine flu shots, especially if vaccine supplies are limited — people 6 months to 24 years old, pregnant women, health care workers. Also a priority: Parents and caregivers of infants,

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