Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

SWINE FLU: Your health questions answered

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Q: What is human swine influenza?

A: Swine-flu viruses do not normally infect humans. From time to time, human infections do occur, resulting in human swine influenza. Human swine influenza is a respiratory illness that causes symptoms similar to those of the regular human seasonal flu.

 

Q: How is it transmitted?

A: Sometimes, humans and animals can pass strains of flu back and forth to one another through direct close contact. More investigation is needed, but it is believed that it is spread the same way as regular seasonal influenza: when germs enter the nose and/or throat.

Q: What should I do if I've travelled to an area with swine flu, and now have coughs, aches and fatigue?

A: "If people have had a travel history to an affected area and they're sick, stay at home," says Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief public health officer.

 

Q: Should I show up at a clinic or doctor's office?

A: "Notify them in advance as a courtesy to the physician... so they can take proper precautions," says Dr. Danuta Skowronski, a physician epidemiologist with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

 

Q: What can I do to protect myself from the flu?

A: Focus on simple prevention techniques, such as washing your hands and coughing in your sleeve. "If you don't have access to soap and water, use an alcohol gel," advises Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

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

A: The virus is vulnerable to Tamiflu and Relenza, the two anti-viral drugs that Canada has stockpiled.

 

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 it safe to eat fruits and vegetables from Mexico?

A: Yes. "In terms of influenza viruses and swine flu, it is 100 per cent safe," says Dr. Andrew Simor, an infectious disease specialist.

 

Q: Can you get this swine flu from handling or eating pork products?

A: No. "It is perfectly safe to eat pork because that's not a means of getting swine flu," Simor says. "Pigs and swine often are infected with influenza virus and yet people ingest pork products all the time."

 

Q: Where can I go for more information?

A: Call the Public Health Agency of Canada at 1-800-454-8302 or visit the website at www.phac-aspc.gc.ca.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 29, 2009 D8

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