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Your Questions Answered

Our regular updates on the H1N1 virus have sparked a lot of questions among our readers, so we've provided a list of your most frequently asked questions and their answers in order to keep you informed, allay your fears, and help keep you safe and healthy.

Q: At what point should I seek medical attention if I believe I've been exposed to the swine flu?
A: You should seek medical attention if you've been suffering from any flu-like symptoms (such as fever, headache, body aches and cough) for more than 24 hours. Let your healthcare professional know if you suspect you've been exposed to the H1N1 virus (widely known as the "swine flu") because of recent travel to Mexico or contact with someone diagnosed with the disease.

Q: If I received a swine flu vaccine during the swine flu outbreak of 1976, am I safe from infection by the current swine flu virus?
A: No. The vaccine you were given to guard against the H1N1 virus is unlikely to provide protection against the current strain of the virus. But a new vaccine is being developed and could be available as soon as June, 2009.

Q: Can I get swine flu from eating pork products?
A: No. The flu is not spread through food, so there is no danger of getting swine flu from consuming pork products.

Q: Can I be infected with swine flu if I handle a pig fetus during a classroom dissection?
A: No, it's highly unlikely for you to be infected in this way. The preservatives used to prepare a pig fetus for dissection should kill any virus the fetus may have been exposed to.

Q: Can my pets become infected with swine flu?
A: Not likely. According to veterinarian Michael Watts, "There is no evidence that dogs, cats, or 'pocket pet' species can be infected with the new H1N1. Although the virus contains some genetic material from an avian influenza virus, there is no evidence this strain can infect birds." Even so," the doctor says, "You should contact your veterinarian any time your pet develops symptoms of a respiratory infection."

Q: How effective is the use of facemasks in preventing swine flu infection?
A: Masks can be effective when used properly. The mask should fit snugly over your mouth and nose, and it should be changed every couple of hours, because prolonged exposure to your own moist breath can turn the mask into a sponge that soaks up outside germs, making you even more susceptible to infection.

Q: I'm pregnant. Should I take greater precautions than others when it comes to the swine flu?
A: Yes. There's evidence that pregnant women could be at higher risk for complications when it comes to infection with H1N1, so pregnant women should be tested for H1N1 and get treatment immediately if they test positive.

Q: How can frequent travelers avoid becoming infected with the swine flu?
A: Frequent travelers should take the precautions everyone else does to prevent infection, including washing hands frequently and avoiding contact with sick people. Make sure to use disposable paper towels in public restrooms for drying hands, turning off faucets and opening doors.

Q: Why has there been such a high death rate for those infected with swine flu in Mexico?
A: The World Health Organization is still investigating the spread of H1N1 in Mexico and why mortality from the virus has been so high in that country. Some experts point to the poverty of the victims, the large concentration of people in such a small area, and the hesitation of those inflicted to seek swift medical attention as possible answers.

Q: What are my chances of a full recovery should I be infected with the swine flu?
A: Excellent. The anti-viral drug treatments Tamiflu and Relenza have proven extremely effective in combating the H1N1 virus. Just make sure you keep a close eye on your health and get treatment if you come down with symptoms that point to the swine flu.
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The Healthline Editorial team writes about the latest health news, policy, and research.