1. No cause for panic. So far, swine flu isn’t much more threatening than regular seasonal flu. Still, more people are susceptible to swine flu and U.S. health officials are worried because it hung in so firmly here during the summer — a time of year the flu usually goes away.
2. Virus tougher on some. Swine flu is more of a threat to certain groups — children under 2, pregnant women, people with health problems like asthma, diabetes and heart disease. Teens and young adults are also more vulnerable to swine flu.
3. Wash your hands often and long. Like seasonal flu, swine flu spreads through the coughs and sneezes of people who are sick.
4. Get the kids vaccinated. These groups should be first in line for swine flu shots, especially if vaccine supplies are limited — people 6 months to 24 years old, pregnant women, health care workers.
5. Get your shots early. Millions of swine flu shots should be available by October. If you are in one of the priority groups, try to get your shot as early as possible.
6. Immunity takes awhile. Even those first in line for shots won’t have immunity until around Thanksgiving. That’s because it’s likely to take two shots, given three weeks apart, to provide protection. And it takes a week or two after the last shot for the vaccine to take full effect.
7. Vaccines are being tested. Health officials presume the swine flu vaccine is safe and effective, but they’re testing it to make sure.
8. Help! Surrounded by swine flu. If an outbreak of swine flu hits your area before you’re vaccinated, stay away from public gathering places. Keep washing those hands and keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth.
9. What if you get sick? If you have other health problems or are pregnant and develop flu-like symptoms, call your doctor right away. You may be prescribed Tamiflu or Relenza. These drugs can reduce the severity of swine flu if taken right after symptoms start. If you develop breathing problems (rapid breathing for kids), pain in your chest, constant vomiting or a fever that keeps rising, go to an emergency room. Most people, though, should just stay home and rest.
10. No swine flu from barbecue. Swine flu is not spread by handling meat, whether it’s raw or cooked.