With news of H1N1 flu, more commonly known as "swine flu," spreading like wild fire through the fibers of every communication and networking stream we use day to day, levels of fear and panic about this strain of influenza are on the increase, arguably with good reason. On Thursday, April 29, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised the swine flu to level 5 on the pandemic alert scale. In response to this assertion that a pandemic outbreak is "imminent," school systems and school communities are passing along warnings to families and teachers, face masks are hot commodities, and the general sense of anxiety over each and every sniffle and sneeze is on the rise.
Taking precautions outlined by the Centers for Disease Control is smart. In addition to following standard practices for the prevention of spreading germs -- frequent hand washing, for example -- you need to be aware of the symptoms of swine flu, which unfortunately are similar to most typical strains of influenza.
Arming yourself with reliable information and knowing the facts is important. One of the key misconceptions of swine flu is the fear that you can "catch it" from eating pork or pork products. The Wall Street Journal reported that the price of "cash hogs" has fallen dramatically with swine flu in the news. The fear, based on the name, is that eating pork increases your risk. The Centers for Disease Control, however, confirms that swine flu is not transmitted through food. Snopes, a familiar source for differentiating fact from fiction in stories that circulate on the web and via email, also has a list of answers to twenty top questions about swine flu.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano hosted a webcast today, April 30, to answer questions and provide more information about swine flu.