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Public Health Emergency Declared

Swine flu has spread to the US--2 UPDATES - On Sunday, the US government declared a public health emergency because the number of swine flu cases in this country has risen to 20 and the new variant of the virus isnot yet understood. Public institutions in Mexico have been closed down due to the virus, and free face masks have been distributed. No one has died from it in the US so far, but there have been almost 150 deaths in Mexico, although, like bird flu, most people are likely to get a mild case of the disease (the dead were most likely elderly or immune-suppressed individuals). Symptoms include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, coughing, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

In New York City, 8 students at a private high school have tested positive for swine flu, and more than 100 students there were absent with flu-like symptoms last week. Public health officials in Ohio have confirmed one case of swine flu. There have been 7 confirmed cases in California, 2 in Kansas, and 2 in Texas.

The virus is a strain of swine flu, which is the kind of fluthat spreads throughout the US every winter, but people who got their annual flu vaccine this year are not protected from this outbreak because it's unique, in that it combines genetic material from birds and humans in a way researchers have not seen before. Infected people are contagious for up to seven days from the time they catch the disease longer, if they continue to have symptoms. Young children may be contagious for longer periods of time. Tamiflu and Relenza are the recommended treatments.

UPDATE: Internet rumors that the disease was "created in alaboratory" stem from the fact that a public health officialmentioned that a laboratory culture had been made of thevirus. Culturing an existing virus and creating one are twoentirely different things, and there is not the slightestevidence that this virus was created in a lab. The videoprovides an excellent overview of the situation. To watch,clickhere.

UPDATE: The US has is releasing the stockpiles of Tamiflu, which it built up during the bird flu scare, which never materialized in the US (let's hope that the swine flu is a false alarm as well!) These supplies will undoubtedly be made available to drug stores, since Tamiflu is a prescription drug, so you'll have to go to your doctor to get a prescription for it, but once you arrive at the drug store, at least it will be there.

The best way to avoid it? Wash your hands often!

To learn more, click here, here and here.

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