Unlike in 1918, when the flu really bitch-slapped humanity, leading medical experts have the ability to immediately update us with information on how to stay safe, and how to separate myth from fact. For example: By now, unless you're a vapid hotel-fortune heiress who answers the cell phone during sex, you know that you can't get this brand of cooties from eating pork; there are, however, some rather interesting questions among the scores of FAQs lists that have popped up in the last few days.
We thought Hair Balls should offer some answers to these questions, which will be included before the "official" answer. Feel free to follow either...
Should I be worried?
Hair Balls: Nope. Just because a bunch of people are dying and there is no vaccine, that is absolutely no reason to worry. In fact, go ahead and lick a bunch of doorknobs.
MSNBC: The reason that we're worried about swine flu is the people typically killed by flu are often the very old and frail, and sometimes the very young. Because of the deaths in Mexico, there are indications that swine flu might be able to strike and kill younger people -- those in their 20s, 30s and 40s. In 1918, the ultimate pandemic we know about killed healthy young adults. That's one of the reasons why this outbreak is potentially frightening. We still have to understand more.
From the Centers for Disease Control
Is this H1N1 flu virus contagious?
Hair Balls: Absolutely not. The only way you can catch swine flu is by incurring the wrath of God.
CDC: CDC has determined that this H1N1 influenza A virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. However, at this time, it is not known how easily the virus spreads between people.
What is the best technique for washing my hands to avoid getting the flu?
Hair Balls: A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that the most effective way to wash your hands is by taking off your mittens first.
CDC: Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. Wash with soap and water or clean with alcohol-based hand cleaner. We recommend that when you wash your hands -- with soap and warm water -- that you wash for 15 to 20 seconds. When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used. You can find them in most supermarkets and drugstores. If using gel, rub your hands until the gel is dry. The gel doesn't need water to work; the alcohol in it kills the germs on your hands.
From the World Health Organization
What should I do if I am in regular contact with pigs?
Hair Balls: Take stock of your life.
WHO: Even though there is no clear indication that the current human cases with swine influenza infection are related to recent or ongoing influenza-like disease events in pigs, it would be advisable to minimize contact with sick pigs and report such animals to relevant animal health authorities.
From Mount Sinai Hospital (Ontario, Canada)
My friend just came back from Mexico and I visited her yesterday. Should I come to work?
Hair Balls: This depends on a number of factors, including whether or not your friend sneezed into your mouth, and whether you were wearing mittens. It also depends on whether your boss is a dick.
MSH: As long as your friend is well and you are feeling well, it is okay to visit or go to work.
From the Kansas Department of Health and Environment
I keep kosher - no pork or pork products - so I don't have to worry, right?
HB: Well, that's nice that you keep kosher, but would it kill you to pick up the phone and call your bubbie once in a while?
KDHE: Again, this is a human flu. It really has nothing to do with pigs anymore. As with seasonal flu, safe hand-washing practices and other healthy habits are recommended for everyone regardless of culture or creed.
From the U.S. Department of Agriculture
Is my potbelly pig in danger?
HB: As long as your potbelly pig keeps kosher, there is absolutely no problem.
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USDA: There is no evidence at this time that the virus is in U.S. swine. Swine owners should learn the warning signs of swine influenza. Signs of swine flu in pigs can include sudden onset of fever, depression, coughing (barking), discharge from the nose or eyes, sneezing, breathing difficulties, eye redness or inflammation, and going off feed. If your pig is showing any of these signs, call your veterinarian.
How many people have swine flu?
HB: 329. No, wait, 330. Wait - 331. 332. Sorry, 333....
WMD: That's a hard question to answer, because the figure is changing so quickly. If you want to keep track of U.S. cases that have been confirmed by lab tests and reported to the CDC, check the CDC's web site. If you're looking for cases in other countries, visit the World Health Organization's web site. And when you hear about large numbers of people who are ill, remember that lab tests may not yet have been done to confirm that they have swine flu. And there may be a little lag time before confirmed cases make it into the official tally.