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More About Swine Flu: Fact & Fiction Edition

Swine flu is making headlines all over the world. It's also making lots of people worried about what might happen next. So what is the truth about swine flu? We answer the questions real kids want to know most.

How Did Swine Flu Start?
Swine flu started in Mexico when a virus in pigs infected a person. It’s thought that two different types of viruses combined together in the pigs to create something that didn’t exist before now – that’s why the epidemic is only breaking out now. This sort of thing happens all the time in nature when different viruses combine together, and sometimes the new virus can infect people, but most times it doesn't.


What Causes Swine Flu?
Swine flu is caused by a virus. Viruses are tiny – so small you can't even see them under a normal microscope. They cause illnesses we know about like colds, measles and chicken pox. The virus that causes swine flu is really similar to the virus that causes the type of flu people get in the winter, what we call “human flu.”


What Are The Signs Of Swine Flu? How Can You Avoid It?
Swine flu causes symptoms just like any ordinary flu that affects people each winter. You get a cold, maybe a sore throat. You might feel hot, have a headache or generally feel a bit achy or tired. It only lasts a few days. You can lower your chances of catching any flu virus – human flu or swine flu – by washing your hands plenty of times each day with soap and water and not touching your face.


Can You Get Swine Flu If You Haven't Been To Mexico?
So far most of the people who have got swine flu caught it while they were on holiday in Mexico because there is a lot of the virus there right now. In time, as the virus spreads, people in different countries could start catching it from each other, but there is only a very small chance of that.


Why Is It So Difficult To Contain The Outbreak Of The Flu?
The flu is spread between people through the air. Because we all share the same air that we breathe, it can spread quite easily. Also, because sometimes people who have the virus don't feel very sick until a few days after they catch it, they can pass it on to other people without knowing.


If We Do Get It How Easy Is It To Rid Of?
When you get infected with the flu virus, it only stays in your body for a few days before your own immune system fights off the virus and kills it. The hard part is that during that time you might have passed it on to the next person – that’s how the virus survives, by going from person to person.


Why Isn’t There A Vaccination For It? What If You’ve Had a Regular Flu Shot – Are You Safe?
It isn’t believed that the normal flu vaccine will work against this particular strain of the virus because it does not look exactly like what has been going around in people up until now. A special vaccine needs to be made for this virus, and work has started on that already. It might take a few months but should be ready before the fall when we really need it.


Is It Safe To Travel By Plane During This Outbreak? What Can We Do To Protect Ourselves While Traveling?
It is safe to travel on planes. But just like everywhere else you can help protect yourself against catching the virus in a crowded place by washing your hands with soap and water a lot and not touching your face too much. If you find yourself coughing or sneezing, be sure to do it into a tissue and then throw the tissue away.


How Many People Are Expected To Get Swine Flu?
It’s hard to say right now. Even if the virus does spread, most people will only have mild symptoms – like having a cold – or not even know they’ve been infected at all. Only a tiny proportion of people who get swine flu will likely die from it – most healthy people who catch it will only experience a mild cold or mild symptoms. In fact, a few people do die from the normal human flu every single year (mostly people with weak immune systems, like elderly people or people who are very sick with different diseases that weaken or destroy the immune system), and experts don’t think the swine flu will be much different.


If The Swine Flu Gets Out Of Hand, Will Everyone Be Vaccinated?
Giving people a vaccine against a virus like flu is the best way to protect them. It’s hope that in the next few months a vaccine to protect people against swine flu will be made. Once that happens people will be asked whether they want the vaccine, and giving it out in schools might be one way to get it to kids quickly.


Swine Flu Is A Pandemic On Level 5 – Does This Mean It Will Kill A Lot Of People?
The pandemic alert level 5 means that the World Health Organization thinks it’s quite likely that this virus will spread around the world and affect a lot of different countries. But most people will only have a mild cold if they catch the virus and only a tiny proportion of them will get or feel any sicker than that.


If I Feel Sick Now Does It Means I Have The Swine Flu?
Right now the only people that have swine flu are people that went on holiday to Mexico and caught it there. So it’s really unlikely that you actually have swine flu. We all get colds and flu sometimes, and you have most likely just caught a normal cold virus. But the symptoms you have are not unlike what you might get if you had swine flu, and chances are you will get better in a few days – just like a regular human flu. If you’re really worried or feeling really sick, you should, of course, tell your mom or dad or go see your doctor to ask what you can do to get better more quickly.


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