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Swine Flu Q&A

¶ Should I care about swine flu? If you catch influenza, you will feel sick for several days. If you’re very young, old, or have pneumonia or asthma, the flu could cause dangerous complications. The swine flu (influenza A subtype H1N1) has been blamed for more than a hundred deaths in Mexico, numbers that caused worldwide alarm last week. But the confirmed death toll in Mexico is much lower — 25 deaths among 590 laboratory-confirmed cases, according to the World Health Organization. The United States had one death in 286 cases, according to the CDC. The disease “is not stronger than regular seasonal flu,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet A. Napolitano last night.

¶ What are swine flu’s symptoms? The swine flu has the same symptoms as influenza: coughing, a sore throat, fever, headache, tiredness, and aches. Less common symptoms include diarrhea and vomiting. Fever, cough, and respiratory illness are the primary symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control said in a press briefing.

I don’t want to get sick. What should I do? Wash your hands. Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth when you’re out in public; you might touch something which a sick person touched or coughed on.

¶ I feel sick. What should I do? Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Avoid healthy people. Visit MIT Medical and you may become healthy more quickly.

¶ Can swine flu be treated? Yes. Treatment with the antivirals that MIT stocks will shorten the duration of illness by a day or two, said Howard M. Heller, Medical Chief of Internal Medicine.

¶ Should I visit MIT Medical? If you feel very sick, especially if you think you might have influenza, you should call Medical for an appointment (617-253-4481). If none are available, you will be directed to MIT Medical’s urgent care (open 24 hours a day, free for students). If you are mildly ill, stay at home, the Massachusetts public health department said yesterday.

¶ I don’t feel sick. Should I go to Medical anyway? No. Try not to hang out around sick people during flu season. MIT Medical’s Urgent Care counts as “around sick people.”

¶ Should I go to Mexico? If your travel is not essential, you shouldn’t go, the Centers for Disease Control said on Monday night in an advisory available online at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/. If you’ve recently come back from Mexico and don’t feel ill, you’re probably fine.