Those of you who read this blog probably aren’t worried about the swine flu, but for the sake of interest, here are a few facts:

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. [The flu itself killed two people, while the vaccine killed at least 25 people.]

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 are spread through uncovered coughs and sneezes, or 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: Should I get a seasonal flu shot, and if so why?

A: The seasonal flu shot will not protect against swine flu.

Q: Is there anything that helps patients with swine flu get better?

A: The virus is vulnerable to the anti-viral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza.

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