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CNN wants to help its viewers and online users get answers surrounding the outbreak of swine flu in Mexico. We’ve had an outpouring of questions come in. The following are among the most frequently asked questions.
Q: Why is it more deadly in Mexico than anywhere else it’s surfaced?
CNN: The short answer is investigators don’t know. The deaths have occurred in healthy people, as opposed to those usually most at risk from the flu: the young, the old and those with compromised immune systems. The same thing happened in recent years with the SARS and avian flu outbreaks. The spreading virus starts a cascade within the body as the immune system overreacts. Fluid builds up in the lungs and inflammatory cells throughout the body react to the infection.
Q: Does the normal influenza vaccine offer protection against swine flu virus?
CNN: It may offer some. This particular virus seems to be a combination of several different strains: two strains of swine flu, one strain of bird flu and one strain of human flu. It’s the human flu portion of the virus that that the flu vaccine may offer some protection against.
Q: Can animals, such as dogs or cats, contract the swine flu? If so, can they transfer it to humans?
CNN: There is no evidence that dogs and cats can contract swine flu. Still, this is a new strain of swine flu virus, and investigators can’t rule it out until more tests are done. In the past, the avian H5N1 flu has infected domestic cats and at least one dog in Thailand, according to the scientific literature. In 2004, the equine H3 virus appeared to infect dogs. There have been no reports of dogs or cats spreading the flu to people.
Q: How long will it take if a person has the flu before they show symptoms?
CNN: The typical incubation period for influenza is 1-4 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The symptoms are similar to the common flu. They include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, coughing, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Q: How does a person contract swine flu? Does it come from pigs?
CNN: Swine flu may have come from pigs originally, but it is now being spread from among people. The virus spreads the same way the seasonal flu does. When an infected person coughs or sneezes around another person, the latter is put at risk. People can become infected by touching something with the flu virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes. An infected person can pass the virus to another before any symptoms even develop
Q: Should I avoid traveling to Mexico because of the swine flu?
CNN: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that Americans avoid all “non-essential” travel to Mexico.
Program Note: Tune in tonight for Randi Kaye's full report on AC360° tonight at 10 p.m. ET.
Randi Kaye | Bio
Riding the subway in New York City these days has taken on a whole new “yuck” factor.
With swine flu cases in Queens, NY and so many other parts of the country and the world, a lot of people are asking themselves, “Can I get it?”
Well, if you’re near anyone who sneezes who has the flu, the answer is you could. We rode the subway today with a doctor from Lenox Hospital in New York City and he really gave us an earful about what’s going on in our noses when we sneeze. We got a good visual about what happens when you sneeze and how germs spread human to human so easily, which is what the experts say is happening with the swine flu.
Turns out, a sneeze sends all that goopy stuff flying at about 100 miles an hour in your direction. He says a single sneeze sprays anywhere from 40,000 to 100,000 droplets of pure germ. Gross! And this stuff hangs in the air for up to a minute so even if you’re not within the three to five feet that the sneeze immediately hits, you may still be affected if you walk over to that area within a minute or so.
Predicting the path of a swine flu outbreak is next to impossible, public health officials say. But Dr. Ira Longini has spent more than three decades trying to do just that.
And Longini says the apparent new strain of swine flu appears to be here to stay. "We are probably going to have to live with this virus for some time," he told CNN.
Longini specializes in the mathematical and statistical theory of epidemics. He works at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Institute at the Hutchinson Research Center in Seattle, Washington.
Flu fears are growing as the swine flu outbreak spreads.
More cases were reported worldwide today, including in the United States, where at least seven people have been hospitalized. Nationwide, at least 64 cases have been confirmed in five states. While there have been no deaths so far in the U.S., health officials today warned that will change.
"I fully expect we will see deaths from this infection," said Richard Besser, acting director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the same.
As the outbreak spreads, the search for its source has intensified. Did it originate it Mexico? That’s still not clear. Tonight, 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta visits a village where the first known case in Mexico is believed to have occurred. Is the young boy who fell ill weeks ago the Holy Grail in this health crisis - Patient Zero?
Experts say the illness likely emerged in a pig infected with avian and human flu strains, then jumped to humans. According to this theory, somewhere a person picked up the virus from an infected live pig, became ill, and then passed the flu on to other people. Tonight we’ll show you how a simple sneeze can set off an epidemic. Randi Kaye teamed up with a medical expert and braved New York’s subway. Yep, there’s a big ick factor in her report – but it’s one you need to watch for your own health.
While Congress held an emergency meeting on swine flu today, President Obama asked for $1.5 billion to help fight the outbreak. Meantime, Gov. Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in California to free up more resources to stop the virus’s spread.
The fight could be a tough one. In the annals of flu viruses, this one is a newbie – a previously unseen blend of bird, human and pig viruses. And that’s what has many health experts worried. Brand new viruses can be especially deadly because their victims haven’t developed immunities to them.
We’ll spend a lot of time on this fast-moving story tonight. Dr. Gupta and Dr. Carlos Del Rio will be taking your questions. Send them our way at AC360.com.
See you at 10 p.m. eastern...
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US President Barack Obama holds up FBI teddy bears given to him for his daughters by FBI Director Robert Mueller prior to speaking to employees at FBI Headquarters in Washington, DC, April 28, 2009.
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Patrick Di Justo
There is evidence there will be a major flu epidemic this coming fall. The indication is that we will see a return of the 1918 flu virus that is the most virulent form of the flu. In 1918 a half million Americans died. The projections are that this virus will kill one million Americans in 1976.
- F. David Matthews, secretary of health, education, and welfare (Feb., 1976)
In January 1976, 19-year old U.S. Army Private David Lewis, stationed at Fort Dix, joined his platoon on a 50-mile hike through the New Jersey snow. Lewis didn't have to go; he was suffering from flu and had been confined to his quarters by his unit's medical officer. Thirteen miles into the hike, Lewis collapsed and died a short time later of pneumonia caused by influenza. Because Lewis was young, generally healthy and should not have succumbed to the common flu, his death set off a cascade of uncertainty that confused the scientists, panicked the government and eventually embittered a public made distrustful of authority by Vietnam and Watergate.
This past Sunday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano left open the possibility of a mass immunization program for the current outbreak of swine flu. If that happens, the Obama administration has a lot to learn from the debacle set in motion by Private Lewis' ill-fated hike.
Heather Ferreira works in the slums of Mumbai, India, where she has watched thousands of women live under a "curse."
The women she meets in the squalid streets where "Slumdog Millionaire" was filmed are often treated with contempt, she says. They're considered ugly if their skin and hair are too dark. They are deemed "cursed" if they only have daughters. Many would-be mothers even abort their children if they learn they're female.
Yet lately she says Indian women are getting another message from the emergence of another woman thousands of miles away. This woman has dark skin and hair. She walks next to her husband in public, not behind. And she has two daughters. But no one calls her cursed. They call her Michelle Obama, the first lady.
"She could be a new face for India," says Ferreira, program officer for an HIV-prevention program run by World Vision, an international humanitarian group. "She shows women that it's OK to have dark skin and to not have a son. She's quite real to us."