Don’t panic over the possibility of pandemic

The outbreak of swine flu in Mexico is a serious matter, but it’s not a pandemic.


Not yet. It’s too early to make that determination.


What we know is that the number of confirmed cases is rising every day.


Many people are justifiably concerned about this virus. It’s a potential health threat and, if a lot of misinformation proliferates, it can cause panic.


Truly, the best protection we have against the spread of swine flu — or any other threat to our health and well-being — is a well-informed public.


So here is some basic information about swine flu:


Like other viruses, it spreads through airborne droplets created when someone who has the virus coughs or sneezes. That’s why people should cover their noses and mouths with tissues when they cough or sneeze to prevent transmission of the virus.


To protect yourself, avoid close contact with others and wash your hands with soap and water frequently. Avoid shaking hands with people — and keep your hands away from your face.


If you are exposed to the virus, the incubation period is about seven days. Symptoms involve a fever of more than 101 degrees, coughing and respiratory distress. If you have these symptoms, alert your doctor.


There is a lot of misinformation proliferating on the Internet. Contrary to some reports, there is no evidence that people get swine flu from eating pork.


And, while the number of cases is rising, it’s too early for health officials to declare this the start of a pandemic.
We know this: The virus is spreading. Communities may be able to help minimize the spread by identifying new cases quickly. And individuals can take common-sense steps to protect themselves and their families.


So washing your hands frequently will protect you.


And if you are ill, staying home will protect the rest of us.