Setting The Record Straight on H1N1

H1N1 MYTHS

The website New Scientist is setting the record straight:

• MYTH 1: The symptoms are like regular flu. You’ve got it if you’ve got a fever.

Fact: Testing for fever may not be a reliable way of diagnosing swine flu. Up to half the people who get swine flu never develop a fever, and some suffer from gastrointestinal symptoms as well as more standard flu symptoms.

• MYTH 2: This is just mild flu. The death rates are even lower than for normal flu.

Fact: Swine flu is killing young people rather than the very elderly, and although winter is just starting, more young people have already died of flu than normally die over the entire winter.

• MYTH 3: You’re safe as long as you’re healthy. Only sick, weak people get really ill.

Fact: Deep lung infection can be a killer. Most of the children who have died of swine flu were perfectly healthy beforehand, and many of the adult victims also had no underlying conditions.

• MYTH 4: I’ll be OK if I just eat organic food, take vitamins, wear a mask, wash my hands a lot and drink plenty of fluids.

Fact: Even the N95 mask won’t save you. Getting vaccinated is by far the most effective thing you can do to protect yourself and your family from swine flu.

• MYTH 5: It’s OK now because we have a vaccine.

Fact: Vaccines will save lives, but only if they get through in time. Even in rich countries, it will be months before everyone who wants the vaccine can get it. Poor countries will get little if any vaccine. Read more

• MYTH 6: The vaccine isn’t safe. Why take the risk to prevent mild flu?

Fact: Vaccines protect but links to other conditions have heightened concerns. During past pandemics, a third or more of the entire population has got flu, and the risks of flu killing you or causing nasty problems such as Guillain-Barré syndrome are far greater than those of the vaccines.

• MYTH 7: This virus won’t get deadlier — that isn’t in a germ’s interests.

Fact: Will it mutate? Flu viruses do sometimes get nastier. No one can be sure how 2009 flu will evolve, but it’s certainly not going away.

• MYTH 8: Once this pandemic is over we’ll be safe for another few decades.

Fact: The 1957 flu pandemic wasn’t the first nor last. Another animal flu virus could jump to humans tomorrow and start another pandemic.

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