ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
Know Your Asthma Triggers
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Birds Don't Miss a Beat
Licorice May Block Absorption of Organ Transplant Drug
When Healing Becomes a Commodity
ANIMAL CARE
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Beware of Dog Bites
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
BONES & JOINTS
Human Ancestors Put Best Foot Forward 1.5M Years Ago
Study Examines How Rheumatoid Arthritis Destroys Bone
New Clues to How Fish Oils Help Arthritis Patients
CANCER
Drinking Green Tea May Slow Prostate Cancer
Occaisonal Dieting May Cut Breast Cancer, Study Says
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
CAREGIVING
Weekend Admission May Be Riskier for GI Bleeding
Critically Ill Patients Lack Vitamin D
Recession Scrambling Health Spending in U.S.
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Drink a Little Wine, Live a Little Longer
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
Obesity Linked to Heart Failure Risk
COSMETIC
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
DENTAL, ORAL
Study Links Osteoporosis Drugs to Jaw Trouble
Toothbrushing May Stave Off Heart Woes
Obesity Boosts Gum Disease Risk
DIABETES
Study Shows Turmeric May Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
24 Million Americans Had Diabetes in 2007
Brown Rice Bests White for Diabetes Prevention
DIET, NUTRITION
Western Diet Linked To Heart Disease, Metabolic Syndrome
Adults Need To Get Thier Food Facts Straight
Weight Loss Might Not Curb Knee Arthritis
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Global Warming Biggest Health Threat of 21st Century, Experts Say
Showerheads Harbor a Bounty of Germs
Are Medical Meetings Environmentally Unfriendly?
EYE CARE, VISION
Ordinary Chores Cause Half of All Eye Injuries
Glaucoma Associated With Reading Impairments in Elderly
Glaucoma Treatment Can Prevent Blindness
FITNESS
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
Mom and Baby Alike May Benefit From Exercise
Exercise Keeps the Brain Young
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
GENERAL HEALTH
Coffee Cuts Liver Scarring in Hepatitis C
Cocaine Spurs Long-Term Change in Brain Chemistry
Eating Nuts May Help Cholesterol Levels
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Vitamin B3 May Help Repair Brain After a Stroke
Low Vitamin D Levels Linked to Heart Disease
More Steps a Day Lead to Better Health
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Working Intensely Early on May Help Autistic Kids
Even Young Kids Can Learn CPR
Green Tea May Help Brain Cope With Sleep Disorders
MEN'S HEALTH
Drinking Green Tea May Slow Prostate Cancer
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
MENTAL HEALTH
Common Social Groups and Race, Seem to Help People Relate
Mind Exercise Might Help Stroke Patients
Keeping a Healthy Holiday Balance
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Before Conceiving, Take Folic Acid for One Full Year
Calcium Supplements Cut Blood Lead Levels During Pregnancy
For Baby and Mom Alike, Breast-Feeding May Be Best
SENIORS
Laughter Can Stimulate a Dull Appetite
Eating Well And Keeping Active As You Grow Old Will Help You Stay Sharp
Vitamin D May Help Keep Aging at Bay
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
Air Pollution Slows Women's Marathon Times
Add your Article

What you need to know about swine flu.

By LAURAN NEERGAARD, AP Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard, Ap Medical Writer Mon Apr 27, 4:41 pm ET

WASHINGTON A never-before-seen strain of swine flu has turned killer in Mexico and is causing milder illness in the United States and elsewhere. While authorities say it's not time to panic, they are taking steps to stem the spread and also urging people to pay close attention to the latest health warnings and take their own precautions.
"Individuals have a key role to play," Dr. Richard Besser, acting chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Monday.

Here's what you need to know:

Q: How do I protect myself and my family?

A: For now, take commonsense precautions. Cover your coughs and sneezes, with a tissue that you throw away or by sneezing into your elbow rather than your hand. Wash hands frequently; if soap and water aren't available, hand gels can substitute. Stay home if you're sick and keep children home from school if they are.

Q: How easy is it to catch this virus?

A: Scientists don't yet know if it takes fairly close or prolonged contact with someone who's sick, or if it's more easily spread. But in general, flu viruses spread through uncovered coughs and sneezes or and this is important by touching your mouth or nose with unwashed hands. Flu viruses can live on surfaces for several hours, like a doorknob just touched by someone who sneezed into his hand.

Q: In Mexico, officials are handing out face masks. Do I need one?

A: The CDC says there's not good evidence that masks really help outside of health care settings. It's safer just to avoid close contact with someone who's sick and avoid crowded gatherings in places where swine flu is known to be spreading. But if you can't do that, CDC guidelines say it's OK to consider a mask just don't let it substitute for good precautions.

Q: Is swine flu treatable?

A: Yes, with the flu drugs Tamiflu or Relenza, but not with two older flu medications.

Q: Is there enough?

A: Yes. The federal government has stockpiled enough of the drugs to treat 50 million people, and many states have additional stocks. As a precaution, the CDC has shipped a quarter of that supply to the states to keep on hand just in case the virus starts spreading more than it has so far.

Q: Should I take Tamiflu as a precaution if I'm not sick yet?

A: No. "What are you going to do with it, use it when you get a sniffle?" asks Dr. Marc Siegel of New York University Langone Medical Center and author of "Bird Flu: Everything you Need To Know About The Next Pandemic." Overusing antiviral drugs can help germs become resistant to them.

Q: How big is my risk?

A: For most people, very low. Outside of Mexico, so far clusters of illnesses seem related to Mexican travel. New York City's cluster, for instance, consists of students and family members at one school where some students came back ill from spring break in Mexico.

Q: Why are people dying in Mexico and not here?

A: That's a mystery. First, understand that no one really knows just how many people in Mexico are dying of this flu strain, or how many have it. Only a fraction of the suspected deaths have been tested and confirmed as swine flu, and some initially suspected cases were caused by something else.

Q: Should I cancel my planned trip to Mexico?

A: The U.S. did issue a travel advisory Monday discouraging nonessential travel there.

Q: What else is the U.S., or anyone else, doing to try to stop this virus?

A: The U.S. is beginning limited screening of travelers from Mexico, so that the obviously sick can be sent for treatment. Other governments have issued their own travel warnings and restrictions. Mexico is taking the biggest steps, closings that limit most crowded gatherings. In the U.S., communities with clusters of illness also may limit contact New York closed the affected school for a few days, for example so stay tuned to hear if your area eventually is affected.

Q: What are the symptoms?

A: They're similar to regular human flu a fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people also have diarrhea and vomiting.

Q: How do I know if I should see a doctor? Maybe my symptoms are from something else like pollen?

A: Health authorities say if you live in places where swine flu cases have been confirmed, or you recently traveled to Mexico, and you have flulike symptoms, ask your doctor if you need treatment or to be tested. Allergies won't cause a fever. And run-of-the-mill stomach bugs won't be accompanied by respiratory symptoms, notes Dr. Wayne Reynolds of Newport News, Va., spokesman for the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Q: Is there a vaccine to prevent this new infection?

A: No. And CDC's initial testing suggests that last winter's flu shot didn't offer any cross-protection.

Q: How long would it take to produce a vaccine?

A: A few months. The CDC has created what's called "seed stock" of the new virus that manufacturers would need to start production. But the government hasn't yet decided if the outbreak is bad enough to order that.

Q: What is swine flu?

A: Pigs spread their own strains of influenza and every so often people catch one, usually after contact with the animals. This new strain is a mix of pig viruses with some human and bird viruses. Unlike more typical swine flu, it is spreading person-to-person. A 1976 outbreak of another unusual swine flu at Fort Dix, N.J., prompted a problematic mass vaccination campaign, but that time the flu fizzled out.

Q: So is it safe to eat pork?

A: Yes. Swine influenza viruses don't spread through food.

Q: And whatever happened to bird flu? Wasn't that supposed to be the next pandemic?

A: Specialists have long warned that the issue is a never-before-seen strain that people have little if any natural immunity to, regardless of whether it seems to originate from a bird or a pig. Bird flu hasn't gone away; scientists are tracking it, too.

___

EDITOR's NOTE Lauran Neergaard covers health and medical issues for The Associated Press in Washington.

On the Net:

U.S. government flu info: http://www.hhs.gov/web/library/index.html