I posed this question in early October to the Mayo Clinic, Center for Disease Control, World Health Organization, and a few medical practitioners on the front lines in Chicago, Baltimore and Dallas. I was looking for the real truth behind the wildly conflicting information emerging from media hype, personal hysteria and (believe or not) the naysayers who are convinced that the Swine Flu is just another government hoax, perpetrated by the pharmaceutical companies who stand to win big from sales of vaccinations.

After dozens of phone calls and hundreds of questions, the picture that emerges of Swine Flu in the world today is a more reasonable and manageable one. I have condensed my interviews into a few categories that have been the most confusing. I present them here:

How does the Swine Flu spread?

The Swine Flu passes from one person and another when:

A person infected with the flu coughs or sneezes within 6 feet of you. The virus becomes air borne and you can breathe it in or touch a surface that the spray of a cough or sneeze lands on.

A person infected with the flu touches a surface (door handle, pen, computer keyboard, desk, countertop, soda or ATM machine, bus seats, an item in a grocery store,…) and infects it. If you touch this surface within as much as 24 to 48 hours, you could become infected with the virus. Learn more about how long viruses live on various types of surfaces below.

If you touch the mucus of someone infected with the flu and then rub your eyes, touch your mouth, or in some other way make contact with your own mucus, you can get infected.

Bottom line: You must be in close proximity with carriers of the virus and the virus has to be transferred to you through a mucus membrane (eyes, nose, or mouth).

What to watch out for: Handling surfaces or objects in public places. Make the assumption that any surface can be infected with living virus.

How do I know if I have the Swine Flu or a regular flu?

Many of the symptoms of the H1N1 flu are identical to classic flu viruses:

  • Fever above 100.4 °F
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches and fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

The H1N1 typically also include these symptoms (these are the symptoms to really look out for):

  • Difficulty breathing, rapid breathing, or shortness of breath
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Bluish skin color (in children)
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Fever with a rash (children)

Confirmed H1N1 cases, according to hospital statistics collected by the Centers for Disease Control, reported these symptoms, in order of most to least reported:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue/weakness
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Wheezing
  • Diarrhea

Swine flu deaths have been related to pneumonia, which can develop 5 days after the onset of the flu symptoms. If you have flu symptoms that include chest pain or other respiratory issues, seek medical treatment immediately.

Some health care practitioners are recommending a pneumonia vaccine. If you're an at-risk person for contracting the Swine Flu, ask your doctor about this. Those who are most at-risk are children, the elderly, pregnant women, and anyone with a compromised immune system or a serious illness.

How susceptible am I if I work with children all day?

It is true that children pose the greatest threat for contracting and spreading the Swine Flu, largely because they lack good hygiene and handwashing skills. School children are stuffed in school classrooms, which can act like breeding grounds for viruses. If you are a parent of schoolchildren or if you work with children, your exposure will naturally be higher than for those who aren't around children very much.

You will need to take extra precautions. I recommend including the children in your flu-prevention activities. Here are among the most important:

Keep your hands clean. Wash your hands with soap and water every time you've had contact with other people or with public surfaces. If a washroom isn't available, carry with you disinfectant wipes. Give the children their own package of disinfectant wipes and show them how to use them properly. Hand cleaning is the single most important prevention you can take. Do it fastidiously and impress this on the young ones. It will be a good lifelong habit to instill.

Disinfect the surfaces where you live and work. At home you can use a disinfectant spray and sponge. Elsewhere, the disinfectant wipes are great for this too. A friend who travels a lot disinfects all the surfaces in her hotel room. If you work in an office, don't be shy about disinfecting your personal work space. You might be a good influence. You may rally your co-workers to join in on a shared disinfectant detail, where one of more of you volunteers everyday to wipe down shared spaces 3 times a day.

When you cough or sneeze, don't use your hand. Nuzzle your mouth in the crook of your elbow. If you use a tissue, throw it away immediately and wash your hands.

Get into the practice of keeping your hands away from your face. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, especially when you're in public places.

Avoid contact with anyone you know is sick. If you suspect a student or co-worker is sick, suggest they go home until they feel better.

If you have flu-like symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever has gone.

Here are some excellent sources of information on the Swine Flu:

Swine Flu Facts and Information

Swine Flu Tracker (global map)


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Author's Bio: 

Lynn Baer is a nutritional researcher/writer, specializing in body detoxification, weight loss and nutrition. Her website DetoxSafely.org is a complete reference guide for safe, natural cleansing and body detoxification. Detoxing can be harmful if not approached wisely. DetoxSafely.org provides information about how to plan every aspect of your detox program, including a detailed preparation guide for a safe, doctor-recommended detox program. Lynn also has a blog Detox.fm with cleansing, healing recipes and fascinating, little-known news about health and wellness.