April 27th, 2009
04:40 PM ET

CNN answers your FAQs on swine flu

CNN wants to help its viewers and online users get answers surrounding the outbreak of swine flu in Mexico. We've had an outpouring of questions come in. The following are among the most frequently asked questions.

Q: Why is it more deadly in Mexico than anywhere else it’s surfaced?

CNN: The short answer is investigators don’t know. The deaths have occurred in healthy people, as opposed to those usually most at risk from the flu: the young, the old and those with compromised immune systems. The same thing happened in recent years with the SARS and avian flu outbreaks. The spreading virus starts a cascade within the body as the immune system overreacts. Fluid builds up in the lungs and inflammatory cells throughout the body react to the infection.

Q: Does the normal influenza vaccine offer protection against swine flu virus?

CNN: It may offer some. This particular virus seems to be a combination of several different strains: two strains of swine flu, one strain of bird flu and one strain of human flu. It's the human flu portion of the virus that that the flu vaccine may offer some protection against.

Q: Can animals, such as dogs or cats, contract the swine flu? If so, can they transfer it to humans?

CNN: There is no evidence that dogs and cats can contract swine flu. Still, this is a new strain of swine flu virus, and investigators can’t rule it out until more tests are done. In the past, the avian H5N1 flu has infected domestic cats and at least one dog in Thailand, according to the scientific literature. In 2004, the equine H3 virus appeared to infect dogs. There have been no reports of dogs or cats spreading the flu to people.

Q: How long will it take if a person has the flu before they show symptoms?

CNN: The typical incubation period for influenza is 1-4 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The symptoms are similar to the common flu. They include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, coughing, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Q: How does a person contract swine flu? Does it come from pigs?

CNN: Swine flu may have come from pigs originally, but it is now being spread from among people. The virus spreads the same way the seasonal flu does. When an infected person coughs or sneezes around another person, the latter is put at risk. People can become infected by touching something with the flu virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes. An infected person can pass the virus to another before any symptoms even develop

Q: Should I avoid traveling to Mexico because of the swine flu?

CNN: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that Americans avoid all "non-essential" travel to Mexico.

Q: The swine flu has been labeled as  H1N1. The strain that killed millions of people in 1918 was also labeled H1N1; is it the same virus?

CNN: It is not the same virus. The current strain is a new variation of an H1N1 virus, which is a mix of human and animal versions. H1 refers to type of hemagglutinin, which is involved in the virus gaining entry into a target cell. N1 refers to neuraminidase, an enzyme that allows the release of copies of the virus from infected cells. A new variation can be created when an animal is infected with two or more different viruses at the same time. The viruses can exchange genes. This can be particularly dangerous because people may not have any immune defense against it.

You may have heard to this swine flu virus refered to as "Type A." There are three general types of influenza, Type A, Type B and Type C. Type A occurs in many species and historically has been the sole cause of pandemics.

Q: Where did this swine flu come from?  How did the outbreak occur in Mexico?

CNN: Researchers do not know yet know. People usually get swine flu from infected pigs. For example, farmers handling infected pigs can contract the virus. However, some human cases have occurred without contact with pigs or places they inhabited.

CNN will continue to answer your questions as the story progresses.

Filed under: Global Health • H1N1 Flu

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soundoff (442 Responses)
  1. megan

    I have an immune system disorder and a common cold can kill me, why do i keep seeing sick people walking around sneezing and coughing? Don't you all realize that cancer patients and people like me can't handle what you can? Its very rude! Now i have to wear a mask to go out today, i wouldnt if sick people would just stay home for once! I'm scared of the swine flu only because i know it can kill me and because i know so many people out there refuse to take advice and stay home if they get sick. Thats why its spreading so fast, please... think about someone other than yourselves for once!

    April 28, 2009 at 14:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. pitqueen

    My 7 year old child is currently pos for A influenza one of the three students that prompted the Richardson Texas school to close. After her first test, they sent us to a local Dallas (Presby )emergency room and said we could get her second swab there. They had no idea what to do. Asked us if we would like to be admitted?? and then told us if we didn't want to be admitted, we would have to find another lab. They let us and my daughter who is one of the 4 probable cases of Swine Flu in Dallas county walk out without even getting our name. Our pediatrician was able to secure a second test for us after we drove a vomiting child around dallas for an hour trying to play by the rules. No one from the Dallas County health dept has even contacted us? I don't see a very tight net around this thing. Getting tamiflu was even more challenging. There was no liquid form in Dallas county.

    April 28, 2009 at 14:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. frank

    I agree! I also have an immune system disorder that means the flu would definetly be a big problem for me!

    How is reporting on an epidemic of a new flu strain thats killed over 100 people in a short time " crap " ? Honestly its people like that, that end up spreading this thing around. They take it lightly until they catch it then walk around coughing in everyones face, then they get better and someone like me ends up having serious problems because they dont have the immune system to fight it.

    Its sad but i too see see sick people walking around EVERYDAY & wonder " why are you so rude to think you wont pass that to someone with cancer or aids or someone like me w/immune system problems?" I swear i think people are just oblivious to everything around them.

    Of course people are saying this swine flu is no big deal, no big deal to THEM! Try having your immune system taken away and come back and we'll talk !

    April 28, 2009 at 14:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Angela

    I agree with Ramiro Chavez: When you have pigs you must keep them clean at all times. I know I had pigs before and everyday twice a day I would take the hose go to the pen and scrub it down. I even would take shampoo for dogs and give the pigs a good scrub down one by one with brushes. This will not kill the pigs, on the contrary, they love water. Also their food and water dishes have to be clean at all times. The water has to be fresh always. After they eat, I wash their bowls out with detergent and water real good. In many places around the world where there are farms of cows, pigs, or other animals that are for human consumption, and sometimes the owners have a hard time keeping the pens and stalls clean. They do not have in some cases enough money to pay hired hands to do the cleaning. I never been to Mexico, but I can imagine that the pig pens are dirty and they don't get cleaned as often as they should. But they should think, if you like to eat out of clean dishes and have a clean home, them you have to have all pets and animals clean also. But as it is in many latin american countries, woman as many do, spend the day with those soap operas or just outside with friends and ignore the home and the cleanliness. Thank God, I keep a clean home.

    April 28, 2009 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Melissa

    Yes Cheryl lets exterminate the Mexicans! All the wrong doing in the US is all in thanks to them! What with them taking all of our good jobs, such as picking strawberries and being maids with all of the benefits that come with those jobs its not fair to us law abiding citizens! And since they come and go to Mexico to visit their families so EASILY because crossing the border is like crossing the street we are all doomed to get the swine flu!

    April 28, 2009 at 14:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. robin

    I would like to know how bad this outbreak really is not what they at CNN are told to read but whats in between the lines that they are not saying.And is there a supple for the general public if this gets to a number 6 or just enough to protect certain individuals.

    April 28, 2009 at 14:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Scott Flagel

    PS 174 in Queens ,NY was just closed until further notice ny NYC health officials..

    April 28, 2009 at 15:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Sara Quill

    In the past, the FDA gave out a warning that Tamiflu and Relenza can have serious psychiatric side effects. Is it safe for someone with psychiatric disorders to take these medications, especially if they are on psychotropic medications?

    April 28, 2009 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. mary lou

    I keep wondering why the swine flu is infecting healthy young people instead of the weaker sectors of the population. Could it be that young people are not targeted to get flu shots but infants and less healthy adults are , and the flu shot is providing may be some type of protection.

    Maybe flu shots should ge encourged for all people, no matter of their age or medical condition in hopes of curtailing a pandemic

    April 28, 2009 at 15:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Concerned Citizen

    Could this outbreak of swine flu in Mexico City be a failed assasination attempt by the Mexican drug cartel on President Obama's life – using the virus-infected people as "suicide bombers" to contaminate intended targets? How can the US be sure that this is not a biological attack from a foreign country using its people as soldiers to carry out this "virus" war?

    April 28, 2009 at 15:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. AL

    Anyone remember when we were all going to die of SARS? Or BSE/Kreutzfeld-Jacob? So much devastation. The planet in absolute peril. Come on people, stop buying the b.s.!
    IMHO this is nothing but an empty hype.
    But if it's real – seriously – do you think you little face mask is going to save you? If really as sever as being propagated in the media, this would be a wonderful example of Darwinism. Creationist pay attention.

    April 28, 2009 at 15:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Ana

    Good morning all!

    This message came from my husband who works for HCA, an international hospital corporation.

    It appears that they do not currently perceive the Swine Flu to be any more sever than treating the seasonal flu. That is comforting news. Please pass this information on to your friends and loved ones!


    April 28, 2009 at 15:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Bill

    Things according to you, were supposed to kill me at any moment (over the last decade) if I fail to listen to “YOUR ADVISE”.
    1 – SARS
    2 – Mad Cow Disease (which affect deer, cows, sheep & humans)
    3 – Bird Flu
    Just to mention a few.
    And now Swine Flu which is supposed to be the next big KILLER of man kind. And all that's happened in every instance of this major news is Travel slows, people become afraid of their own neighbors and some scientist come beginning for another 1.5 billion in our tax monies (in an already slow economy). Big media is great at making everyone afraid of something or someone. Tell me, are we so content as a society that we have to create a different monster everyday just to feel human again??

    Sheeeez, enough already!!

    April 28, 2009 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. mehgan

    This things spreading from the airports etc, thats why its already hitting in every continent! Who in their right mind would ride a plane or bus right now? It would be different if we knew people were curious and inteligent enough to stay home when they show symptoms. and if people actaully did wash their hands or convered their mouths, but we all know they dont.

    I'm sick of seeing families w/ little kids walking around sick, coughing sneezing and really just spreading virus' around everywhere! I was at the pharmacy and a woman had an infant on her arm, and the infant coughed every 5 seconds and she stood there for like 15 minutes! I had to stand outside with my mouth covered. Everyone was angry yet for some reason SHE stayed inside while everyone else had to retreat away from her. Is this obliviousness or rudeness? Why do parents think its ok for them to take their sick kids in public? ITS GROSS! Its bad enough every kid i see is at least 40 lbs overweight because parents can't understand that you don't feed kids pop-tarts and soda for breakfast, now parents can't even figure out how to keep their kids home in bed when their sick?

    Does anyone out there know if people on Enbrel should stop taking it to try and get their immune systems up? I havnt taken mine because of this swine flu and now my elbows are the size of soft-balls. I will be really angrey if i still get this flu becuase of some rude person who just can't put a mask on or stay home. PLEASE – i'm begging people.. if you're sick stop going out!

    April 28, 2009 at 16:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Karen Bateman

    Something important for health officials to consider: when people arrive at hospital to be tested for swine flu, and swine flu is ruled out - take the opportunity to provide a swab test for the HIV pandemic as well. Early symptoms of HIV often mimic severe flu. Early diagnosis saves lives. Statistics show that millions of people are walking about unaware they have HIV. Many leave emergency rooms without performing this simple test.

    April 28, 2009 at 16:44 | Report abuse | Reply


    April 28, 2009 at 17:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Thomas

    Come on people, does anyone remember SARS, bird flu?

    We get massive virus and health scares every couple of years. Perhaps people should just learn to deal with the fact that it ain't going to kill millions of people, end of story.

    April 28, 2009 at 17:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Ray in Las Vegas

    Why can not we keep just a little perspective....

    There were nearly 6,420,000 auto accidents in the United States in 2005.

    The financial cost of these crashes is more than 230 Billion dollars.

    2.9 million people were injured and 42,636 people killed. About 115 people die every day
    in vehicle crashes in the United States - one death every 13 minutes.

    And the disease has spread to every mechanized nation in the world.

    Why don't we just shut everything down?????

    April 28, 2009 at 17:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Rhonda

    Get a grip!!! Less than 200 people in the entire WORLD and people are panicking as if it was the end of the world! If the media, including CNN, who has a whole list of articles about the flu, weren't making such a big deal out of it, no one would notice this. The media has blown everything out of proportion and then reporting on that!!
    I have been through the swine flu, the asian flu, and a whole list of
    "named" flues where people were dropping like flies, and there wasn't this much to-do about all of them put together!!

    April 28, 2009 at 18:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. John Sartin

    Dr. Gupta, I have admired your coverage of medically related news for years. My wife is a Public Health Service Physician and I appreciate the hard work you all do to keep the public informed in situations like this but you blew most of your credibility on this issue with your stunt of sneaking into the hospital in Mexico. There was no real news provided by that action and I can only imagine how incensed you would be if a foreign reporter sneaked into a hospital you were working in. Shame on you! That was gratuitous grandstanding at best and criminal probably. CNN should demand that you publicly apologize.

    April 28, 2009 at 18:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. sandi

    why in the world will janet napolitano not close the borders? it is coming from mexico into ca and spreading from there. i just do not get the laxity in our gov't. it makes us less safe. it does not have to be forever. we are not one country ( the usa and mexico).

    April 28, 2009 at 18:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Matt

    There is no way that this could happen by chance. The bird, swin, and human flu all in one flu. and from 3 different counties. This is rather astonishing to realize, because for this to have been a natural combination of viral fragments, it means an infected bird from North America would have had to infect pigs in Europe, then be re-infected by those same pigs with an unlikely cross-species mutation that allowed the bird to carry it again, then that bird would have had to fly to Asia and infected pigs there, and those Asian pigs then mutated the virus once again (while preserving the European swine and bird flu elements) to become human transmittable, and then a human would have had to catch that virus from the Asian pigs - in Mexico! - and spread it to others. (This isn't the only explanation of how it could have happened, but it is one scenario that gives you an idea of the complexity of such a thing happening). EAT PLENTY OF GARLIC AND TAKE COLLOIDAL SILVER, both strong anti-virals.

    April 28, 2009 at 20:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Helen

    Hello from Canada..I was just watching CNN and your breaking news about finding the little one who first developed Swine Flu..How will that little guy feel knowing he perhaps was the first to show signs of this virus...Personally I feel this little man might not enjoy knowing he was the first..I care and certainly wouldnt want my child shown on T.V

    April 28, 2009 at 21:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Mr. Hog Farmer

    OK Angela thats a great concept, except for almost all of the hog farms in the US consist of more that 2000 hogs a farm. Thanks but know the facts.

    April 28, 2009 at 23:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Kay D.

    They need to educate the people in Mexico, how to wear facial masks properly. I"ve seen all kinds of people on TV, wearing their facial masks, without covering their noses!!!!!! Which is useless when you are trying not to get or give this Swine Flu etc..... Are they not given instructions when they are given the facial masks to wear???????

    April 28, 2009 at 23:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Rebecca Bello

    I have been suffering with the flu which has really layed me low for one week now (and counting) and have had the same symptoms as listed for swine flu. I called my doctor after hearing all the news about the possible pandemic and was told that it very well could be the swine flu but as I was already feeling a bit better I didn't need to be seen unless I got worse. My question is I can't be the only one to have been hit with this illness and who didn't see a doctor. Should I have at least been tested? The total number of confirmed cases in the US have been less than 70 but is this a realistic statistic? How many have actually had this virus but have not been tested or even seen by a doctor?

    April 29, 2009 at 02:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Zultan

    Please Dr. Gupta, can you help CNN control itself. I was embarassed to see you sneak into a hospital into Mexico, making a big deal about "security guards" which all hospitals have by the way, and then sensationalistically say "there are sick people in this very building." Please get a grip and stop needlessly frightening people. Also, can you exercise some editorial control over CNN, like them showing images of labs testing bacterial cultures when the flu is caused by a virus and not the bacteria. CNN has resorted to fear-mongering as a business model instead of genuine news, and we the public are getting sick of THAT, not swine flu. If you want sensationalistic journalism, why don't you investigate the fact that cash-strapped researchers into the field of viruses had a government funding deadline of 27 April this year, which is suspicously coincident with the declaration of an emergency?

    April 29, 2009 at 03:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. sarah

    Imagine what would happen if Susan Boyle contracted Swine Flu – the media would go into a paroxysm of such exaggerated hype, all of our heads would explode from the useless information overload!

    April 29, 2009 at 03:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Carl campbell

    I don't understand why everyone is making such a big deal about if maybe 152 people have died of flu like cases in mexico but there are only 7 of the people who died that have actually had swine influenza

    April 29, 2009 at 06:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. anne

    Please do provide serious helpful information on the true efficacy of the masks and what micron size they actually protect down to. the data is hard to find on influenza micron size. if a mask or personal ion device only goes to .04 0r 3 what use are they? on subways or in close proximity. It is not helpful to anyone to be vague.And what about wearing glove s on t he trains?protecting our hands ? you need to carry alchol wipes and continually clean your hands in public areas these things should be dsicussed not justa simple wash your hands by the time people get home they could have touched hundreds of places and if the virus can live for 48 hrs on poles and surfaces that is a great deal of infectious places

    April 29, 2009 at 07:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Bob

    I know a person who might have the swine flu, and he hangs around my son!!:(

    April 29, 2009 at 08:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Bob

    We should watch the News, and as a community we should work together to get this nasty flu out of out Country! Cheer with me, "NO MORE SWINE FLU! NO MORE SWINE FLU! NO MORE SWINE FLU"(And we should keep cheering until it is out of the U.S!!!):)

    April 29, 2009 at 08:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. missionlog

    The best FAQ I've seen for Swine Flu is over at the WHO website – it's interesting to note that the latest statement by the WHO General Director and Phase 4 declaration does not yet recommend or impose ANY travel restrictions.

    April 29, 2009 at 11:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Patty

    I read this morning that WHO is using Baxter Pharmaceuticals to work on the swine flu vaccine. I also read that Baxter Pharmaceuticals is under investigation for sending out live avian flu viruses to be used as a vaccine. This concerns me more than the swine flu. If the CDC were as concerned as they say, they would have restricted travel between the borders.

    April 29, 2009 at 11:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Debra Brickel

    Why isn't there more information on the large factory hog farm located next to the Mexican village where the swine flu was first discovered? I read that the farm pigs tested negative for swine flu, but I find that very hard to believe. I believe more testing should be done at the farm, by independent labs. Also I read an interesting article saying that earlier this year, before the swine flu broke out, that the villagers were protesting the hog farm because it was polluting their air and water and making residents ill. Why has this not been reported in the press?

    Just a few months ago, I read an article about the extreme dangers of factory farming – because they spread disease and pollution. Why isn't the US government and international community paying more attention to this problem?

    I would like to see a complete investigation of the factory hog farm. It is obvious to me that if people are getting a "swine flu" and they live right next door to a large factory hog farm, that the swine flu came from that farm, and the farm should be investigated so we can fully understand what this "swine flu" is.


    May 1, 2009 at 14:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Bruce

    Debra Brickel is exactly right. CNN, you are best positioned to investigate and report on the root causes of trans-species pandemics such as this latest variant of Swine Flu. Resist the lobbying on part of those with a financial stake in censorship and misinformation. In "Earth In The Balance" you did a teriffic job going undercover to reveal the exotic species black markets of Thailand, you can do it for this issue as well.

    May 3, 2009 at 01:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. lou

    does contracting the h1n1 automatically help one develop antibodies for protection in the future????????

    May 16, 2009 at 13:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Lillian King

    Chicken Pox can cause massive scarring of the skin that may not clear, that's bad~'-

    August 12, 2010 at 07:48 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.