Is this the big one that's supposed to wipe millions of the face of the earth? Should we fear for our lives? These and other similar questions have been on the minds of several people since news of the outbreak of the swine flu in Mexico and parts of the United States was released. So far, 81 deaths have been reported in Mexico, while about 20 cases have been identified in the United States. Cases of the flu have also been reported in Canada and in New Zealand, some students who recently vistited Mexico have shown flu-like symptoms that are believed to be the swine flu upon their arrival. The H1H1 swine flu is associated with pigs and can be spread from person to person. When the flu spreads in this way it becomes challenging to treat because each transmission is accompanied by a mutation of the flu virus. Symptoms of the swine flu include fever, sore throat, lethargy, lack of apetite, coughing, running nose, diarrhea, vomitting, and triedness according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Currently, the White House is monitoring the situation but has not issued any general travel precautions. President Barack Obama recently returned from Mexico but so far has shown no symptoms of the swine flu. However, the Department of Health and Human Services has issued a public emergency warning with regards to the flu. As with most influenza strains, the general precautions remain the same. According to the CDC, the best preventive measure against the flu is to get vaccinated. In addition to getting the flu vaccine, other precautions include avoiding close contact with those who may have the flu, frequent proper hand washing, covering the mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing, avoid touching nose, eyes and mouth, and observing other healthy behavior.
As with any epidemic, severe precaution needs to be taken. We are in the age of emerging diseases and viral strains are proving more hardy and resistance to some old and even new treatments. This could possibly turn out to be more deadly than was imagined or conversely good public health measures can help to contain the outbreak. Nonetheless, it's better to be cautious and report to a physician immediately any flu-like symptons are observed. For more information on the swine flu, please visit the Department of Health and Homeland Security and the Centers for Disease Control.