April 28th, 2009
08:24 PM ET

Swine Flu FAQs

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/HEALTH/04/28/swine.flu/art.swine.flu1.cnn.jpg]

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.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Public Health
soundoff (122 Responses)
  1. Jennifer

    What about buying products from Mexico such as produce or even packaged products? Can the germs survive?

    April 28, 2009 at 10:16 pm |
  2. Pam

    my family and i just returned from Puerto Vallarta on april 25. we had no idea this was going on until we returned to the states going thru customs. and only signs were posted.

    can a person take the tamiflu to be preventative ? would this be a smart idea for persons that are just returning from Mexico ?

    April 28, 2009 at 10:15 pm |
  3. Sanjay Tyagi

    There might be a simple explanation for the discrepancy in the mortality of swine flue cases in Mexico and in United States. As a virus spreads in the body of a patient and then into a population, it’s genetic make up and character changes. In some parts of the leading edges of the spreading viral population it may become more virulent and in other it may become less virulent. Now it is possible that the person who happened to have brought the virus to the United States came into contact with relatively benign strain of virus in Mexico City. Therefore all the people that he infects in United States will have the same benign strain. Of course, as the disease spreads here it may become more or less virulent.

    April 28, 2009 at 10:08 pm |
  4. Jason Phillips

    I have worked in pharmacy for many years and am recently alarmed to have just read that this years "seasonal" influenza is Tamilflu-resistant. Has anyone discussed this potential with swine influenza and the importance of completing antiviral therapy even if a loved one starts to have symptoms.

    April 28, 2009 at 10:03 pm |
  5. Annette

    Hi, first of all thank you so much for all of you coverage on this subject. You are educating millions and putting most our minds to rest. I have a question which i have not seen any one pose as of yet and thought I would ask.

    If all of the deaths are in Mexico, and first spread from pigs to humans and this is an anomaly that it is being transmitted from person to person. Could it be that those that first got sick would have been the ones that would have been in contact with pigs resulting in being the sickest and then maybe somehow mutated and less severe once transferred from human to human??

    April 28, 2009 at 9:38 pm |
  6. Maria Mar.-Arizona, Gilbert

    Since this is a relatively new virus strain and a definite treatment or vaccine for it is not yet defined is it safe for people to risk there health depending on the effectiveness of homeopathic or herbal remedies?

    April 28, 2009 at 9:01 pm |
  7. Amy Feldman

    What about all the produce coming in from Mexico?

    April 28, 2009 at 8:08 pm |
  8. Ira Bloom

    Why do we not hear anything about the students and families in the NY school being quaranteed? How we could we expect it not to spread rapidly if they do not quatanteen those that are infected?

    April 28, 2009 at 7:58 pm |
  9. Isabel

    Is there a food that helps to increase immunity and help in the fight against swine flu?

    When there was an outbreak of Dengue Fever (in Brazil) was advised to eat yams for to fortify the immune system.

    April 28, 2009 at 7:32 pm |
  10. Mari

    If I were some of the folks on this blog, commenting that they have a trip to Mexico planned, I would cancel the trip or at least postpone it until the "coast is clear".

    Please everyone get plenty of rest, keep yourself hydrated (water), and wash your hands, even change your clothes when you come home from being in public.

    An ounce of prevention.......

    April 28, 2009 at 7:31 pm |
  11. Sandy In New Lexington OH

    Once a person becomes infected with swine flu, and hopefully recover, does the body then produce antibodies against getting reinfected? Have there been any reported cases of someone getting the swine flu more than once?

    April 28, 2009 at 7:24 pm |
  12. Diane

    The CDC has published some of the genomic sequences of the recent swine flu cases on our national database. I found it interesting that one of the earliest cases appeared March 30th, 2009 in California. Why didn't we hear anything about a potential threat or outbreak for nearly a month? I'm sure Mexico has known about this problem for more than a month, but no warnings were given to our general public. Is this another example of greed for tourism dollars over-stepping ethical responsibilities?

    April 28, 2009 at 7:24 pm |
  13. Sherry, N. Calif.

    Luckily I do not have to go out in the public for several days if I so choose. I have 3 people a week come into my office and i wipe down door knobs and everything they touch. No health ins. and I stay healthy. I will wear my gloves and mask if I have to go out where other people are. I do not know who has been where and none of you do eithger . So protect yourself and take pre-cautionary methods. Everyone is at risk and there are no exceptions. 150 deaths in Mexico and probably some here in States they are not reporting.

    April 28, 2009 at 7:19 pm |
  14. Rod, Ontario, Canada

    I don't hear anyone making fun of Michael Jackson for wearing a face mask now!

    April 28, 2009 at 7:18 pm |
  15. Isabel

    How to tell if we are with the swine flu or a common flu?

    Only tests can confirm what type of flu? What are these tests?

    April 28, 2009 at 7:18 pm |
  16. nancy chitwood

    My husband and I are aboard the Westerdam, Holland America Line, off of Mexico. We were told we are not landing in Mexico as planned, but instead will be floating until the end of the cruise occurs, which is in 5 days! Please alert the United States State dept. as we would like to arrive in San Diego as soon as possible! We are being kept captive! We want to return to the United States as soon as possible! Please Help!

    April 28, 2009 at 7:07 pm |
  17. Marcia

    This flu does not come for swine. It was first found on a pig farm pepole. So it is air born from person to person as any other flu.

    Rest and get a lot of fuilds going.is all i am going to do if i get it.

    April 28, 2009 at 7:04 pm |
  18. Karina

    Is it true that the vaccine that is given out, in Mexico and here in the U.S.A does nothing, because that vaccine is for the human flu virus?

    I have family in Mexico and they tell me that they are informed that the most danger is here in the U.S.A and not Mexico, what gives?

    April 28, 2009 at 6:48 pm |
  19. Annie Kate

    Most years we have a new strain of flu – or a flu that has mutated somewhat from the flu the year before. Flu mutates rapidly so it is hardly likely this flu came from a lab or a bio-terrorism attack. Its just a naturally occurring disease. Medical scientists have said for years that we were due for another flu pandemic and that because of how mobile society was now as compared to the early 1900s it would spread faster and probably with more people. If it makes you feel safer to wear a mask and surgical gloves then go ahead and do it; don't wait for the government to mandate it. Use good common sense about sneezing, coughing, and going out in crowds and in all likelihood you will be all right.

    April 28, 2009 at 6:44 pm |
  20. Michele Harvey

    Anderson This might be a great time to purchase as much Hoffman La Roche stock (producers of Tamiflu) since the WHO has stated that the United States will stockpile for possible mass distribution. A little history about Hoffman La Roche, they also produced L-Dopa, the miracle drug of the 60's for treatment of Parkinson's disease. I have friends that were able to pay off their new homes, student loans, etc after six months. Just a thought

    April 28, 2009 at 6:44 pm |
  21. jose

    like michael says April 28th, 2009 2:35 pm ET

    It sounds like this flu was created in a lab–2 parts swine to 1 part bird to 1 part human. Could something this complex have mutated naturally? Have scientists started developing a vaccine for this new flu? Can you contract it by eating infected pork? Hopefully these questions will be discussed on tonight’s show. I question whether someone in our own goverment is responsible secretly behind all this remmeber the tsunami in 2007 when all of a sudden there was a nuclear missle missing then all of a sudden a tsunami sounds too fishy i smell a DIRTY RAT

    April 28, 2009 at 6:41 pm |
  22. jose

    Army investigators are close to closing a probe into the disappearance of deadly pathogens at Fort Detrick's infectious disease laboratory in Frederick and have found no evidence yet of criminal misconduct, the Army's Criminal Investigation Command said yesterday.

    April 28, 2009 at 6:36 pm |
  23. jose

    too coincindental ..too close to each other to not question whther or not someone is manipulating deaths and diseases under the goverment .

    April 28, 2009 at 6:35 pm |
  24. RobP

    If there are more confirmed cases in the US than in Mexico at this point, then why is everyone still so panicked about Mexico?

    April 28, 2009 at 5:37 pm |
  25. Partain

    how long does this virus stay on a surface before its not and issue anymore? such as money. head sets credit cards. ect. can you get it from eating foods?

    April 28, 2009 at 5:29 pm |
  26. Todd

    I understand that covering your cough and washing your hands are good preventative measures in spreading the H1N1 virus but shouldn't we be more proactive in distributing gloves and masks to high traffic areas such as our airport and seaports?

    April 28, 2009 at 5:23 pm |
  27. Isabel

    Is being taken care with the people who are arriving at airports, this moment?

    In 15 days I will be traveling to the US. Do I need to take some specific care?
    Do the immigration authorities require something more of the tourists?

    April 28, 2009 at 4:55 pm |
  28. GH

    Surrendering to paranoia is way too easy. Worry can make you just as sick as any flu. If we took every single precaution under the sun, we'd never leave our houses, touch anything IN our own houses, or breathe. I'm already on antivirals for a blood condition; I don't drink, smoke or toke. I try to eat right, drink lots of water, get plenty of rest, try not to stress, and look at this thing philosophically: If it gets me, it gets me. I'm not going to let the fear of illness stop my everyday living.

    April 28, 2009 at 3:42 pm |
  29. Darla

    My husband and I have a trip booked to go to a Resort on the Baha Pennisula. We are going to Cabo San Lucas on May 24th thru May 29th. What should we do? Can we go to that part of Mexico? Should we cancel? should we take Tamiflu as a preventative? We have alot of money tied up in this trip? We have the trip insurance but the real question is , Will we get all of our money back?

    April 28, 2009 at 3:22 pm |
  30. Mia

    So this swine flu....how long do you think it will last for? theres a concert im going to pretty soon and im just wondering if i should go or not?...

    April 28, 2009 at 2:53 pm |
  31. Michelle Johnson, Lomita, CA

    It sounds like this flu was created in a lab–2 parts swine to 1 part bird to 1 part human. Could something this complex have mutated naturally? Have scientists started developing a vaccine for this new flu? Can you contract it by eating infected pork? Hopefully these questions will be discussed on tonight's show.

    April 28, 2009 at 2:35 pm |
  32. bam!

    Will the U.S. consider the thermal screening process at our airports such as I witnessed in Singapore during the avian crisis?

    April 28, 2009 at 2:34 pm |
  33. Michelle Garcia

    This is ridiculous, people die of the Flu everyday, especially in poverty stricken countries where medical technology and living conditions lack the funds to provide for the community. By putting the word "Swine" in front of it and over hyping the situation, many people are needlessly panicking. If medical personal call for it to be treated as any other Flu that has passed, why create so much panic and stress for others?

    April 28, 2009 at 2:25 pm |
  34. Lilibeth

    Because of this outbreak, do you think future flu vaccines will incorporate protection from different strains of swine and bird flu, in addition to human flu?

    Edmonds, Washington

    April 28, 2009 at 2:12 pm |
  35. kim

    what about the fruits and vegtables that are brought in from Mexico? Will this continue? should we be careful instead of sorry later?

    April 28, 2009 at 1:55 pm |
  36. Jordan H. Poole

    This comment is to Jan Kesler above- you watch too much TV

    April 28, 2009 at 1:53 pm |
  37. Kevin, TX

    I am a college student in central Texas, and with the threat of swine flu inching closer I take offense to people saying that the threat is overblown. Live in a border state, and then tell me you aren't scared.

    April 28, 2009 at 1:42 pm |
  38. Juanita, Elko NV

    Avoid all non-essential trips to Mexico for how long?

    April 28, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  39. Sue

    All health care facilities should have a flu clinic where anyone having symptoms can go without going to primaries and urgent cares for I have found whenever I go to those with a flu, they never want to test, and just tell you to get rest, so I hope these front line Drs are being told to take people seriously and not do their usual nothing when someone is ill. Last year I had a fever, congestion, cough etc for 3 months and I went after 2 weeks then after a month and then 3 months, each time telling them that I had a prolonged fever, cough, lung congestion and pains, and they kept saying it is probably viral go home and rest and refused to give me antibiotics, and the 3rd time after 3 months of hell, a got an urgent care Dr who agreed to try an antibiotic and in 2 days my symptoms cleared and in a week I was all better. I hope that with this new and dangerous flu that these front line Drs take people's concerns more seriously than the ones I have run into did.

    April 28, 2009 at 1:37 pm |
  40. Jan Kesler

    Has anyone considered that this may be a lab created flu, brought on by the drug cartels to divert attention and funding away from the war on drugs?

    April 28, 2009 at 1:15 pm |
  41. Marge

    I am concerned about 2 trips I have scheduled to Mexico. A cruise and 10 days in Cancun. Will the airlines and cruise companies refund charges due to the Swine Flu?

    April 28, 2009 at 12:53 pm |
  42. Terry, TX

    It's the flu...wash your hands, cover your mouth...stay home if your sick. It is not cholera, tuberculosis, eboli, aids, small pox, on..and on...we are not living in 1918 where thousands died...why no alert notices by TV, radio and internet. I am going to scream if hear another 1918 story...if that's the case we might as well talk about the Black Plague.

    April 28, 2009 at 12:53 pm |
  43. E. Paul

    Officials are asking the public to rethink traveling to Mexico. Why isn't the crossing being closed between Mexico and the U.S. near San Diego as the Mayor of the town has requested? Shouldn't Napolitano be more proactive rather than waiting to see what happens and then being reactive? I know the administration wants the Mexican vote, but at what price?

    April 28, 2009 at 12:50 pm |
  44. Sharon Kitchen

    2ND – I and my husband ,however, did survive a virus illness that even the CDC could not figure out. After being VERY ill for 4 days I was finaly able to get up and I gave us both Pau d' Arco ,(an herb). This acts like a pactman and surrounds the virus,and your white cells do the rest and you recover. This may help in this situation. I know that this has and will remain in my medicine supply. The Pau d' Arco is the bark of the Tahebo tree.

    Hopefully,everyone recovers quickly.

    April 28, 2009 at 12:50 pm |
  45. Lilibeth

    Even though I don't have swine flu right now, as a precaution, can I go to my doctor and ask for a prescription for antivirals, just in case? (I'm trying to be proactive.)


    Edmonds, Washington

    April 28, 2009 at 12:26 pm |
  46. MarieAnne Sam - Alabang in the Philippines

    There are now reported cases in some US States - what are the containment plans to prevent further spread? And how can you differentiate it from the common flu? Is it also airborne and can be spread if a carrier is travelling from one place to another, just like what happened to SARS?

    April 28, 2009 at 11:36 am |
  47. sirteachyou

    People should consider installing UV lights in their furnace and airconditioning ductwork. The lights will kill the swine flu, SARS, mold and many other air borne virises as well as dust mites. Your local HVAC dealer can install these easliy.

    April 28, 2009 at 11:33 am |
  48. Jim Beezy Cedar Rapids,Ia

    So with all of this talk about Swine Flu going on everywhere, does it ever cross anyone's mind where did this strain come from? Should the thought of Bio Terrorism be in our heads?? Or is that just a crazy thought???

    April 28, 2009 at 11:11 am |
  49. Renee Volk

    It is amazing the contrast in affected people in Mexico vs US citizens to this "Swine Flu". It is my thought that its because of the availability of better medical attention (health care) and its possible that the quality of water is better here in the US giving the people in Mexico a worse pre-disposition to this virus.

    I wonder, of those who have tested positive for this virus here in the US, have they all received the TamiFlu vaccine?? I've heard that after a certain point in the illness, the vaccine does not help. What are they prescribing people to do to get through its natural viral course?? Extra vitamins? Bed rest? Lots of Tylenol to keep the fever down ??

    Renee In FLA

    April 28, 2009 at 10:59 am |
  50. Michelle D . Fonthill. Ont

    There are some cases of swine flu that hit people who didn't travel to Mexico ,how canh they determine the severity of flu or swine flu among these infected people? Is it safe to eat in resteraunts beacuse of pork or chicken ?

    April 28, 2009 at 10:37 am |
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