Some common-sense precautions can help keep you safe from this potentially deadly infection.
Step 1: Understand the infection Understand what it is. Swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by the influenza virus. Usually the virus does not infect humans, but transmission can sometimes occur in persons with direct exposure to pigs. The current outbreak has been caused by human-to-human transmission.
Step 2: Understand how it spreads Swine flu is spread between humans like a cold: A person can catch it by being sneezed, coughed, or breathed on by a carrier, or by touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching their own nose, eyes, or mouth. Direct contact with infected pigs can also transmit the virus to people, and vice versa. So far, no other animals can transmit the virus to humans.
TIP: You cannot get swine flu from eating cooked pork or pork products.
Step 3: Wash your hands Wash your hands with warm water and soap often, lathering up for as long as it takes you to sing "Happy Birthday" twice, or about 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer in between, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Don't shake hands with anyone.
Step 4: Avoid sick people If someone is showing signs of a cold or flu, keep your distance.
Step 5: Don't assume immunity Don't assume you're immune to the swine flu because you got a flu shot last year. It may not prevent you from being made sick by this particular strain, though it could prevent you from catching other strains.
TIP: Unlike other flu viruses, which tend to attack weakened immune systems, swine flu flourishes in young, strong, healthy bodies.
Step 6: Know the symptoms Know the symptoms, which include a fever higher than 100 degrees, body aches, coughing, a sore throat, and respiratory congestion. Some people have diarrhea and vomiting, too.
Step 7: Don't delay medical attention Don't delay in getting medical attention if you show symptoms. Swine flu can be successfully treated with the antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza, which are most effective when taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.
Step 8: Protect others If you are diagnosed with any kind of flu, stay indoors and limit your interaction with loved ones for seven days after the onset of symptoms to avoid passing it to others.
Step 9: Wear a face mask If you are in an area where there's been a swine flu outbreak, wear a face mask. Swine flu is spread through respiratory droplets, which are transferred by a cough, sneeze, or even an exhale.
TIP: A simple face mask filters about 62 percent of small particles; a professional-grade one keeps 98 percent out.
Step 10: Don't panic Don't panic if you recently visited an area with an outbreak. The incubation period is three to five days, so if you're flu-free a week after your trip, you're probably not infected.
FACT: The World Bank has estimated that in a worst-case scenario, a flu pandemic could cost the world economy $3 trillion.