Q&A on Swine Flu
Experts answer your questions
Our partners in the AARP Global Network have published a bulletin with an informative Q&A on swine flu.
Here’s the text of their information, and a LINK to share with your friends and family.
By: Katharine Greider | Source: AARP Bulletin Today | May 1, 2009
Q. Americans of what age group are most affected by swine flu?
A. So far, the median age of people with confirmed cases of swine flu is just 17 years old, with very few cases involving people over age 50, says Anne Schuchat, M.D., of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Schuchat, interim deputy director for the science and public health program at CDC, reported this update during a press conference Sunday, May 3. Seasonal flu typically affects the very young and the elderly she said and whether this new swine flu pattern holds remains to be seen.
Q. Do antibacterial wipes and lotions kill the virus? Are they as effective as soap and water?
A. The experts agree: Washing your hands well and often is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself against the swine flu virus and any number of other bugs. And yes, a soap-and-water scrub is the best option because it actually washes the organisms down the drain.
If soap and water are not available and your hands aren’t visibly dirty, the second-best choice is an alcohol-based hand rub like Purell, which kills the virus. The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) recommends a product of at least 60 percent alcohol. Check the label. Soaps containing antibacterial agents like triclosan haven’t been proven better than regular soaps at preventing infection in general.
Q. Are some individuals exploiting fear of contagion to make a buck?
A. Don’t they always? The scammers and spammers are already busy pitching “cures” for the swine flu, as well as products claiming to prevent it. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has begun issuing warnings to offending websites. Don’t buy flu meds without a prescription. Report suspected swine flu fraud to the FDA.
Q. Should I buy face masks from the drugstore?
A. Lots of people are doing just that, but the masks’ usefulness for protecting you from the swine flu while you’re out and about is questionable. For one thing, the droplets from a cough or sneeze “drop out of the air at about six feet,” says Kevin High, M.D., who heads the infectious diseases department at Wake Forest University. Hand-contact transmission is much more likely than breathing airborne virus. Another thing: The masks many are buying are designed to keep people from breathing soot or being exposed to large-particle splashes. “It’s not clear that they really keep out viral particles,” says High. So-called N95 masks have smaller pores that do filter viruses, but are more expensive. They also may be uncomfortable for some older people, especially those with breathing problems, says Patricia Rosenbaum, R.N., an infection prevention expert and APIC spokesperson. Remember—the masks cannot be shared or reused and can themselves become contaminated. If the swine flu became widespread in your community, donning a mask might be part of a larger strategy to prevent transmission, say experts at the CDC. They may also be useful for health care workers in close contact with coughing, sneezing patients.