The Swine Flu, officially the Swine influenza A (H1N1) virus, is spreading rapidly around the world. Here's a guide to what's going on, what you can do and where to stay updated on the situation.
The contagious virus has been identified on several continents, including North America (Canada, Mexico, United States) and Europe (Spain) and suspected cases in Australia and South America.
In the United States and Canada, Swine Flu has been confirmed in New York City, Ohio, Kansas, Texas, California, Nova Scotia and British Columbia, with possible cases in North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey, Indiana and Michigan.
In Europe, Swine Flu has been confirmed in Spain and the U.K. (Scotland) and are under investigation in the Czech Republic, Denmark and Russia.
Cases are also being investigated in Israel, Colombia, Chile, Australia and New Zealand.
What's being done
The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) is working very closely with officials in states where human cases of Swine Flu have been identified, as well as with health officials in Mexico, Canada and the World Health Organization.
A public health emergency has been declared in the United States.
The CDC's Division of the Strategic National Stockpile is releasing one-quarter of its antiviral drugs, personal protective equipment, and respiratory protection devices to help states respond to the outbreak.
Laboratory testing has found the swine influenza A (H1N1) virus susceptible to the prescription antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir.
Symptoms of swine flu are like regular flu symptoms. That includes:
Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu.
How it spreads
The virus spreads the same way a typical seasonal flu does, via coughs, sneezes (within a few feet) or touching something with the flu virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes. An infected person can pass it on before they even develop symptoms. The incubation period for most flu viruses is 3 to 5 days, and the period for swine flu is disputed, and has been reported as anywhere from 1-5 days.
There is no evidence yet that this year's seasonal flu vaccine will protect against the swine flu.
You cannot get swine flu from eating pork products.
What you can do
If you believe have flu symptoms, stay home. When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. Throw out used tissues and wash your hands. If you've got flu symptoms and you've recently been to a high-risk area such as Mexico see your doctor.
Your doctor may not be able to determine whether you have swine flu, but he or she would take a sample from you and send it to a state health department lab for testing. Your doctor may write you a prescription for Tamiflu or Relenza, but neither is required, as Swine Flu patients have recovered without medication.
If you were immunized with the Swine Flu vaccine in 1976, it probably won't protect you now.
Where to stay up-to-date
- Watch your local broadcast news channel (CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, FOX) for live updates and Q&A sessions
- The CDC's official page on Swine Flu
- A Google Maps mashup tracking confirmed cases, suspect cases, deaths and false alarms worldwide
- The New York Times' "Tracking Swine Flu Cases Worldwide" interactive, which is updated
- WebMD's Swine Flu FAQ, which includes more details about symptoms
- A Q&A on CNN including history of previous Swine Flu outbreaks
- The World Health Organization's Swine Flu homepage, which is updated
- 2009 Swine Flu Outbreak Wikipedia page, which may be updated before news organizations
- See all posts on Twitter tagged "#swineflu"
- Google.org's Flu Trends page
[Pictured above: Speakal iPig iPod docking station, a fine device completely unrelated to flu outbreaks]