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  • 6/1/2009

Swine flu: How to Avoid Infection

swine flu - hysteria

With the concerns about the spread of swine flu, the ABC's national medical reporter Sophie Scott answers your questions about swine flu.

Reader questions

Are there any cases of swine flu in Australia?

• Swine flu has been detected in Australia. As a result, the Federal Government is in the 'contain' stage of the flu pandemic plan.

I feel like I am getting the flu. What should I do?


• Swine flu has the same or similar symptoms to other forms of influenza, such as cough, fever, headache, joint aches and pains, fatigue, nausea, and in severe cases vomiting and/or diarrhoea.

If you have recently travelled to the United States, Mexico, Canada, Japan or Panama and you have flu-like symptoms, you need to call your doctor or go to the nearest emergency department.

If you have not travelled overseas and have been in contact with someone with swine flu and develop flu symptoms, you need to call your doctor or go to the nearest emergency department.

There have been some cases in Australia of swine flu in people who have not been overseas or in contact with other patients. So it is wise to call your doctor if you do develop flu symptoms.

Swine flu is thought to be sensitive to the latest antiviral drugs oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza), which are readily available in Australia and overseas.

Is it worth getting or wearing a face mask?

swine flus image

• There is strong scientific evidence that wearing a face mask can reduce the spread of viruses such as influenza.

I'm planning a trip soon to Mexico and the United States. Should I cancel my trip?

• The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is advising Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Mexico because of the outbreak. However, if you do decide to travel to Mexico, it recommended you follow the advice of local authorities and monitor the media for updated information about the spread of the virus. DFAT provides advice through www.smartraveller.gov.au. If you have school age children, they will need to stay away from school for one week on returning to Australia.

Does this virus mean I shouldn't eat pork?

• Pork is safe to eat. According to New Scientist magazine, this virus is named swine flu because one of its surface proteins is most similar to viruses that usually infect pigs. But this particular strain of flu virus has not been seen in pigs before. It is spreading in people - that's the problem.


What can I do to protect myself against all kinds of influenza?

• According to the US Centre for Disease Control, there are steps which can be taken to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading the flu virus. Here are some recommendations:

Keep your distance from and avoid close contact with people who are sick.

If you are sick, stay at home and keep your distance from other people to prevent spreading the flu virus.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue and turn your head away from other people when you cough or sneeze.

Wash your hands often to protect yourself from germs.

Avoid touching your nose, eyes and mouth.

To keep your immune system healthy, get enough sleep, eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, exercise regularly, drink at least eight glasses of water a day and keep stress levels to a minimum.

The use of antiviral drugs can also help to protect you against contracting the flu virus.

Is there a vaccine?

• Because it is a new mutation, at the moment there is no vaccine for this strain of flu. However, work is underway to create a vaccine and experts say the work done to try to find vaccines for bird flu has given researchers a head start. The Federal Government has ordered ten million doses of the swine flu vaccine so research will now be stepped up.
swine flus painting

This is general information and not medical advice and if readers are concerned about their health they should seek advice from a doctor.

By Sophie Scott

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