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April 29th, 2009
12:51 PM ET

Concern vs. Alarm: What do we need to know about swine flu?

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption= "A preliminary image of the swine flu virus from the Centers for Disease Control."]

Today I asked one of my colleagues "what makes swine flu different from the regular flu bug?"

Her answer: "One is being talked about all day on TV and the other is not"

She has a point but that's not the whole story. Since we began covering the swine flu these have been my biggest questions:

-What makes this different from the regular seasonal flu? (Seasonal flu kills 36,000 Americans each year)
-Why can't they come up with a vaccine for it?
-How do you know if you or your loved ones have swine flu?
-Can you get it from eating pork?

If you are wondering the same things, here's a quick explainer based on what we've gotten from all of the experts we've talked to over the past few days, including our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CDC Acting Director Dr. Richard Besser, and the president himself.

The biggest reason the swine flu is a concern is that swine flu is harder to treat or fight, because it’s a new strain and thus people have little natural immunity to it according to experts. Here's what Dr. Carlos del Rio of the Emory University School of Medicine told VOA News.

"This is a totally new virus... You have a virus to which there's no pre-vaccination, there's no prior immunity. And, therefore, the mortality rate may be higher than other influenza viruses."

Coming up with a vaccine takes time. And as the CDC acting director said today on our air, they are fast tracking a swine flu vaccine. Whether or not they choose to recommend using it is still apparently up in the air. Watch the interview

So how do you know if you have it? Symptoms include fever, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea; much like regular flu. So if you have those, stay home, avoid others in your household, and call your doctor to see if you should get tested or take an anti-viral.

Lastly, experts say you cannot get it from eating pork, according to the USDA.  In fact, there’s no evidence that even touching raw pork infected with the virus is risky, says the USDA.

You can get more swine flu questions answered here

Hope this helps,


Filed under: Health
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Shanaya

    I don't know if I have swine flu but i'm 10 and what do we have to have to have swine flu? I have itchy eyes, runny nose, cough, i think that's it so do I have it?

    August 6, 2009 at 4:08 am |
  2. Cat

    Hello there, Kiran. I have a bit of a delima this morning when it comes to the advice given to us regarding the swine flu, by our president, for the past few days. He is wrong, and someone should inform him before he ends up increasing the unemployment rate and endangering the filled employment positions of any sick American workers!! Let me elaborate.

    I have a 17 year old son who has worked in the food industry for a while now. We live in the Greensburg, PA area where my son has been employed by a highly known bakery and works with the foods that our public buys to take home and feed thier families. He worked hard for this bakery, but one day in April, he got very sick with terrible flu like symptoms. I took him to the doctors office who said he had it bad, and that he was to call off work, as to NOT spread this problem at the workplace! He did as both the doctor and our president informed him to do! He stayed home for 4 days! (with a doctors excuse) When my son went back to work, he handed the owner a doctors excuse ...and then was fired! He was told that he should have came into work sick!! I am still shocked about this mans irresponsible decisions here! My son stayed home as a public safety issue, and had the blessing of our president to do so, and because he listened to his doctor and our chief, he lost a job in a time when jobs are just hard to come by! NOT TO MENTION, the owner of a well known bakery here seems to have NO PROBLEM with very ill people handeling the foods that will be sold to the public! He is better now, but unemployed as a result of taking the advice given by Obama. He should not advize anyone unless he gets educated on the rights of the employer and the total lack of rights to the employee and to the public. Something should be done about this now, before we end up spreading this virus even through the foods that we buy! I may seek legal advice today, but if anyone had some good advice for me, I would very much appreciate every bit that I can find! Thank you so much for posting this. This is a truely a horrifying problem and it needs dealt with. Employees need some power returned to them! They have to be able to protect themselves and not be forced to harm the public!!

    April 30, 2009 at 7:07 am |
  3. Terry

    I recently heard on the news about some test tubes that came up missing from a lab that had some biological spores in them and then this swine outbreak a few days later.Do you think this has anything to do with the swine flu? It makes me wonder about it ?????
    thank you for your time.
    Terry B. MICH.

    April 30, 2009 at 12:18 am |