Swine Flu: What should you do right now?
I’m interrupting our series on Vaccines and Autism now to discuss the recent swine flu issues. My apologies to those looking forward to a picking-apart of Jim Carrey’s drivel today.
I’m going to be aiming my posts on swine flu at the general population; I’ll also be keeping them short and posting pretty regularly. If you find my coverage overly simplistic and you’d like a more technical breakdown, I highly recommend Effect Measure – the coverage on that blog is just excellent.
First things first:
That’s important. So I’ll say it again
There is a lot of media attention, and a lot of CDC activity trying to spread information right now. That’s not a bad thing! That’s the system in action – and it’s why the US right now, is better prepared for this outbreak than Mexico, or Indonesia. Mexican and Indonesian readers: it’s not an insult, but the public health systems in your respective countries just haven’t been prepared for a flu outbreak.
Right now, the hype isn’t because Swine Flu is killing more people than cancer. The hype is because this virus is new. Since the virus new, we don’t know exactly what to expect.
What should you do right now?
First, you should wash your hands, and then go buy a bottle of alcohol hand sanitizer that you can carry with you. It might look like this:
Why? Because the evidence says that this virus is spreading from person to person – from people sneezing on you, shaking hands with you after sneezing on their hands, etc. Wash your hands regularly, and use hand sanitizer when you can’t wash your hands, with that alone you can do a lot to prevent the spread of almost infections you come into contact with. Swine flu is just another flu virus. The flu virus spread through respiratory secretions – stuff that comes out of your lungs. Sometimes it’s the stuff you’ve wiped onto your hands. If you’ve wiped it onto your hands – wash your hands! Especially if you’re working with other people, wash your hands! Even if you don’t work with people, wash your hands!
You can still eat pork. Respiratory secretions are NOT in your pork chop, delicious pork is in your pork chop. You cannot get swine flu from eating a ham sandwich.
If you’re feeling sick, stay home! Another reason the flu virus is so quickly passed around is that people come to work sick and sneeze all over everyone. Then things spread. Also, cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze, preferably with a tissue paper, then throw the tissue paper away. After that… wash your hands!
Now that has a flip side. Just because you haven’t seen someone sick, doesn’t mean you haven’t been exposed to something. Viruses have an incubation period, where you have the virus, and can conceivably spread the virus, but you don’t LOOK like you have the virus… yet.
Just having the sniffles does not mean you have swine flu. If you are a little sick, don’t panic! A quick guideline: If you have high fevers (>100.4 F, or 38C) – use a thermometer!), respiratory symptoms (runny nose, dry cough, or sore throat), muscle aches, fatigue, and you’ve been sick longer than 2 days go see a doctor! But if you just have the sniffles, don’t go to the doctor, you have more to lose by exposing yourself to sick people there!
What shouldn’t you do? Don’t panic. Don’t go buy homeopathic remedies for flu prevention – even hyped up water is just water. I mention this because more than 1 person has reached this blog in the last day by googling “homeopathic swine flu prophylaxis”. Don’t go buy “alt med” preparations to save you from the flu. They don’t work!
Next up: What exactly is going on?
If you’d like more information right away, the CDC has put up a pretty informative website here.
Please note: I will be taking an especially heavy hand to the comments in any swine flu related post. This is a public health matter, and there is no room for hysteria. You may have a right to free speech, but you cannot shout fire in a theater. That’s how I’ll be treating any comments that I deem ridiculous. If you have a legitimate fear, please voice it, and I’ll respond if appropriate. If you post some ridiculous theory about how this is all a government conspiracy to boost Tamiflu sales, or some such crap, I’m banning right away, I’m not in the mood to suffer fools lightly.