The swine flu is caused by the influenza type A H1N1 virus. Influenza viruses frequently mutate, which is why vaccines developed against previously characterized viruses quickly lose efficiency and we see new vaccines every year.
The rapid mutations are also the reason why the swine flu is now able to efficiently spread to and between humans. And that is the key issue. It’s not a mutant form of a previous influenza strain that has been spreading between humans before. So first of all, humans, unlike swines, have little innate resistance to this virus. Secondly, there are no specific vaccines. The vaccines already on the market offer only marginal protection, if any, because they were developed against different i.e. human strains.
It takes approximately three months to develop a new vaccine for humans. In the meantime the virus can spread and could develop into a pandemic killing millions of people worldwide. Although there is no reason to panick, there is definitely reason to be catious and prepared.
Here are the key online resources for your protection.
Swine Flu Information
The Wold Health Organization coordinates global health issues. Here is where you will find up to date information on the situation, with number of cases and deaths reported around the world.
The WHO offers an RSS Feed for the Swine influenza.
CDC provides extensive resources including detailed information about the virus, antiviral drugs, taking care of a sick person or which facemasks and respirators to use. Furthermore, there is a record of all cases and deaths confirmed within the USA, prominently displayed on the H1N1 Flu mainpage.
For everyone worried about catching the virus, CDC has a collection of sites dedicated to the Seasonal Flu. Although these recommendations were not specifically written for the swine flu, they apply just as well. There is a fact sheet of Good Health Habits that can help stop germs, a list of Symptoms, resources on possible Treatments and how you can Take Care Of Yourself.
The CDC also broadcasts on Twitter.
Swine Flu in the News
To keep an overview of a variety of Swine Flu related topics that may not be covered on the pages above, I recommend the following news sources.
Reuters reports from around the globe with articles, pictures and videos. The bottom of the page dedicated to the Swine Flu shows a world outbreak map. Scroll over the countries to view more details.
The BBC features a set of thorough features, views and analysis. A slideshows explains the WHO pandemic alert phases and when following the links into the Q&A section another slideshow visualizes how the outbreak emerged.
The BBC records an interactive outbreak map, which can be scrolled through by from the first to the most recent case reports to see when and where cases appeared.
Finally, if all of this is simply too much information, I recommend the simple FAQ from the Guardian. It’s straight forward and all key questions and facts are collected and answered on a single page.
They could have added that eating well-cooked pork is safe, though. So there’s no need to cancel that BBQ!
Image credits: Zoofy TheJi