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. seth

    Should there be any concerns about swin flu comming into the states from our mail and if not, how contagious is the swine flu.

    April 29, 2009 at 12:00 am |
  2. Owen Charles

    Hospital care in hospitals in Mexico is quite different. Members of the sick person's family are supposed to stay with then to change bedding, fix and swerve meals – yes even clean the room. This allows the spread from an infected person to the untrained family helpers most of whom come down in the infection. It is no wonder that the infection is spreading the and is more severe. There is a much lower level of trained health care personnel the per 100 patients in Mexico than there are in the US>

    April 28, 2009 at 11:56 pm |
  3. Maria

    Why aren't vacation hotspots (Tahoe, Disney, South Padre Island) infected if Mexicans just visited these places in large numbers after the Spring Break?

    April 28, 2009 at 11:54 pm |
  4. Kelly

    I think the government should quaranteen EVERYONE to their homes for 8-10 days that way everyone who has it is better, and everyone that is contageous has gotten it and can't pass it to others. Use some of that government stimulus to pay our wages for a week. Problem solved.

    April 28, 2009 at 11:51 pm |
  5. Joel

    I see many people on t.v. with masks on does that mean this virus can go airborne? Or are they just putting them on for fun?

    April 28, 2009 at 11:49 pm |
  6. Crystal Johnson

    Are those dying from the swine flu, dying from the swine flu virus alone; or are some also dying of complications having been weakened by the flu?

    April 28, 2009 at 11:48 pm |
  7. brenda allen

    I get the flu shot once a year! I can't recall the last time I had a cold.

    April 28, 2009 at 11:47 pm |
  8. Kellie Palacios

    I am a nurse and no one yet has mentioned the newest technique to cough into your inner elbow by bending your arm up to keep the germs from spreading to your hands. Basically, don't cough into your hands cough into your inner elbow. This is the proper way to protect the hands and reduce the spread and transmission of the germs. Thank you and please mention this on your show. Keep up the good work.

    April 28, 2009 at 11:44 pm |
  9. terry henderson

    how safe is airplane air to breath if traveling with say two or three people sheding the virus during a four hour plane ride?

    April 28, 2009 at 11:43 pm |
  10. Eileen

    Would you advise a family that just returned from Cancun to stay home and not go back to work for a week. Thanks!

    April 28, 2009 at 11:41 pm |
  11. Saurabh Sharma

    I would like to know how many people were effected in Mexico?

    April 28, 2009 at 11:41 pm |
  12. Eileen

    My family and I just got back from a trip to Cancun yesterday and we are wondering how long this virus can manifest in your body if you are infected?


    April 28, 2009 at 11:38 pm |
  13. deann

    If i were to contract swine flue would my cats be at risk to get sick from me?

    April 28, 2009 at 11:37 pm |
  14. JC Chang

    I have been following with the Swine flu news since it began reporting. From the coverage so far, it only talks about the flu travels by air and touch. My question is this, what about mosquitos? Can they carry the virus and pass on to humans? Is there away to protect us from getting the virus by mosquitos? What about animals such as our pets (dogs and cats) or other animals? I hope CNN can cover or answer my questions, and let the public to know the facts and be aware of it.


    April 28, 2009 at 11:37 pm |
  15. Gabe

    Could the fact that Mexico City is at a high elevation, about 8000 feet where there is less oxygen contribute to the more severe forms of the swine flu?

    April 28, 2009 at 11:34 pm |
  16. Usmara

    is there any medicine we can take to prevent swine flu?

    April 28, 2009 at 11:33 pm |
  17. Diane Bremner

    I heard that some people sleep with their pets, (i.e. chickens, pigs, other farm yard animals), but not sexually. Could the virus be transmitted by constant close proximity on an ongoing regular basis between these humans and their animals?

    In addition, because of so much mutation going on now, can the viral barriers be broken down by confusion in recognizing the host?

    April 28, 2009 at 11:28 pm |
  18. Cyndi B. Shinnston, WV

    We are seeing how severe the Swine Flu is in America and Mexico. What are the statistics and situations in the other countries being effected?

    April 28, 2009 at 11:28 pm |
  19. Gary Terhune

    The experts keep insisting that you can't get the swine flu from eating pork. What about handling raw pork?

    April 28, 2009 at 11:25 pm |

    Sixty-four cases of swine flu is not an epidemic. You sound like you are reporting the black death. Why don't you report this story once an hour instead of every ten minutes.

    April 28, 2009 at 11:23 pm |
  21. Donald Pullman

    Could our mail could spread the virus?

    April 28, 2009 at 11:21 pm |
  22. physue s Kromah

    since virus is caused by swine, can we through the consumption of the meat or not, because we dont even how it get in to human yet,

    April 28, 2009 at 11:19 pm |
  23. Denette King

    We have only known about this virus being in our country for a little over 90 hours...

    That's just like Americans to lull ourselves into believing that the virus is a "milder" strain, than what Mexico is seeing. The first case in Mexico was diagnosed in March. On Friday they were claiming that 60 people had died of it In Mexico City. Today, that number is 150.

    When the first young healthy victim dies in this country, sheer panic will ensue, and reality will set in.

    April 28, 2009 at 11:19 pm |
  24. Brian Wilson

    I believe my family has had this over the last couple of weeks, as well as coworkers and their families. We all have had the described symptoms. My question is:

    If we have had it can we get it again?
    What if it mutates, can we get it again then?

    April 28, 2009 at 11:16 pm |
  25. victor

    could the strain of swine flu be a form of bio-terrorism?

    April 28, 2009 at 11:12 pm |
  26. Michelle Garcia

    Answer to all questions:

    We're all gonna die.

    April 28, 2009 at 11:07 pm |
  27. cathy worried in chicago

    I am worried about my graduate students trip to Brazil in June for a month with a university group . Should I be concerned??? Worried mother syndrome......Maybe Brazil wil not let them in? Once there
    how is the health system in Brazil set up to handle visitors that might
    be ill once there???? Is it possible by then this might be even more
    dangerous???? TO me if New Zealand has cases I could see this being global in all countries within days.. Drug companies are not set up for this kind of emergency. Is there a good source for updates for
    travelers going international in the next couple of weeks?????

    April 28, 2009 at 11:07 pm |
  28. sandy

    What is the tests that health officials are being used to diagnose if it is the swine flu vs common flu?

    April 28, 2009 at 11:03 pm |
  29. Nic Goddard

    Can the Swine Flu be passed through water? And, if I get a regular flu shot, will I be immune to Swine?

    April 28, 2009 at 10:54 pm |
  30. Lola

    Me and family planning to travel to Europe early next week on a tour for 15 days. As of today, should we cancel or postpone our trip to later date ? Am confused and worried. If tour agent still persist flying but we are afraid to travel due to Swine Flu. Anyhow, we bought travel insurance. What can I do to get refund of the tickets ?

    April 28, 2009 at 10:53 pm |
  31. Kumar

    Wht I don't understand is why is this swine flu more dangerous or deadly than the regular flu?

    April 28, 2009 at 10:49 pm |
  32. kathrine

    what about the animals,like the dogs and cats. Have any there been any reports of them getting it?

    April 28, 2009 at 10:46 pm |
  33. Blake holcombe

    Hi I am ten and how did the swin flu begain and what do you think the effect wil be I am scared

    April 28, 2009 at 10:41 pm |
  34. Nour Rizk

    Should all US counties enforce students in public schools to wear masks so the disease won't spread ?

    April 28, 2009 at 10:41 pm |
  35. Megan

    I am heading to Cancun in the morning. My entire family and I have already started taking Tamiflu. Will this help prevent us from contracting the swine flu?

    April 28, 2009 at 10:40 pm |
  36. Deborah

    We have just been told that ALL the schools in New Braunfels, Texas will be closed until May 11th!!! What is the CDC not telling us regarding the swine flu? How concerned should we be?

    April 28, 2009 at 10:35 pm |
  37. Kmac

    We have planned a trip to Cancun on the 7th of May for our 10th wedding anniversary. Are there any major outbreaks in that area? All I am hearing is Mexico City

    April 28, 2009 at 10:34 pm |
  38. Chris Gerdts

    Do common dust masks as found in a local hardware store protect for flu contamination or is a surgical grade mask required?

    April 28, 2009 at 10:32 pm |
  39. Peter Christen

    Can the body's immune system build a protective barrier if someone has had swine flu in the past? We travelled to Mexico in February, and when we returned we were VERY ill. We are wondering (if we had Swine Flu) if we are safer now.
    Thanks for any information you can give us.

    April 28, 2009 at 10:31 pm |
  40. Daniel, Chapel Hill, NC

    Reducing the transmission of the swine flu virus is of paramount concern. Would it make more sense to wear latex gloves to prevent transmission instead of face masks? It seems like gloves would serve as a reminder to wash hands, and help individuals to avoid touching eyes, nose, mouth, etc. How effective would this be?

    April 28, 2009 at 10:30 pm |
  41. Nora

    How many different strains of flu are going around right now?

    Just wondering about the people who are ill, but who don't have confirmed cases of the swine flu.

    April 28, 2009 at 10:29 pm |
  42. Jose Solorio

    Hello Mr. Cooper, I have a question. This morning I was watching CNN, and I heard that about four years ago they found a person in Virginia with the same type of virus tatis coming from Mexico, and about two years later there was another case reported with the same type of virus in Texas. So why only concentrate on this specific boy in Veracruz, when there were cases prior to this boy? Please respond.

    April 28, 2009 at 10:27 pm |
  43. Dorie

    My husband and I are planning to go to Cancun in about 5 weeks, what part of mexico is this flu in, and will it possibly be safe to travel around the end of May?

    April 28, 2009 at 10:26 pm |
  44. Donna

    I am considered immuno-deficient since I have no spleen. Is there anything 'extra' I should do to protect myself from swine flu?

    April 28, 2009 at 10:25 pm |


    April 28, 2009 at 10:23 pm |
  46. Chole

    Washing your hands frequently will reduce the spread of this virus so, does it make a difference if it is anti-bacterial soap or plain old-fashioned soap?

    April 28, 2009 at 10:22 pm |
  47. Thurman Underwood

    At this current rate of infection , how long until the entire United States has at least one case of confirmed "Swine Flu" infection ?

    April 28, 2009 at 10:21 pm |
  48. Colleen Hails

    My question is my mother was in a car accident and has no spleen. Thus she is at risk for getting sick very easily because of an altered immune system. My question is she is to travel by air to Canada(Toronto) next Friday for a visit. What are your recommendations on this issue? She is allergic to eggs and can not get the flu vaccine. I don't know what the Tamiflu and other medications consist of. I would greatly appreciate your input on this issue. Thank you.

    April 28, 2009 at 10:21 pm |
  49. Brad

    I've heard that the Swine Flu will continue to mutate as it spreads. Does this mean someone who has had the Swine Flu could actually get it again?

    April 28, 2009 at 10:20 pm |
  50. Rebecca

    What is the increased risk of being infected by swine flu if you travel by air within the US this week?

    April 28, 2009 at 10:20 pm |
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