April 28th, 2009
04:16 PM ET

More of what you wanted to know about swine flu

We're using CNN's newsgathering and research resources to get answers to some of our viewers' most frequently asked questions. This post focuses on prevention methods and protecting yourself and your family. For more topics, see our previous posts.

Q: What effective tools are there for preventing the spread of the virus?

CNN: As simple as it sounds, hand washing is a very effective tool for preventing the spread of the virus. Wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner. Avoid touching your mouth, eyes and nose as much as possible. Also, if you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve. If you're sick, stay home and avoid close contact with others.

Q: How long can viruses live on surfaces?

CNN: Some viruses and bacteria can live two hours or longer on surfaces such as ATMs, doorknobs, computer keyboards and money.

Q: How long are people contagious?

CNN: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends those who become sick not go out for at least seven days after the symptoms start. The CDC says you should stay home an extra day after you feel better. Children are considered to be contagious longer than adults, possibly up to 14 days.

Q: Should people avoid taking public transportation, such as the subways?

CNN: There's no reason to avoid public transportation or other crowded places unless you live in a community that has been affected.

Q: Should parents restrict their children from public places? How long should they be removed from situations with a lot of people and other children?

CNN: Scientists don't know whether the outbreak will escalate.  For now, parents should use reasonable discretion, said Dr. Anne Moscona, an infectious disease expert at Cornell University.  If large gatherings are not essential, they should be avoided.  The situation is being closely monitored and there have been no warnings issued in the United States, but parents should be aware of any updates from their local officials.

For more information, go to "How should I protect myself?" and check back on Dr. Gupta's blog for answers to frequently asked question.

Filed under: Global Health • H1N1 Flu

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soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Joan Betnun

    The advice to stay home when ill is clear, but what plan do city authorities have in place for those who are homeless? . Los Angeles, for instance, has thousands of homeless who obviously would have no place to stay home, when ill. The possibility for rapid disease spread out on the streets and in shelters is horrendous!
    I have not heard of any plan to deal with this type of scenario.

    April 28, 2009 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Lacey

    Thank you Sanjay for providing us will reliable answers, sound medical information and up to the minute data. You are providing a wonderful public service to those of us still here in the US

    April 28, 2009 at 16:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Amit Gupta

    I wanted to share my experience as I thought it may be helpful to others.

    I never had flu at this time of the year. However, last week I had flu like symptons and it was so bad that I felt I am going to die. My friends recommended that I go and see the doctor, but I recently lost the job and so do not have any insurance at this time. While staying at home, I thought of trying some remedies that I had heard earlier on the local TV. I used 'SinuRinse' several times a day and I see my condition started improving. I am not sure if I had swine flu or not, but I never felt so bad as I did this past week.

    I want to share this, thinking that others may consider trying 'SinuRinse' in order to prevent the flu. SinuRinse can be used as a precaution by people even who are feeling fine. Anytime I used it regularly, I have observed that I did not catch flu that year

    April 28, 2009 at 16:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. joanne

    when are they going to close the borders or will the governemnt wait till ten thosnd people or so die first as

    we sure do not need these thosands walking o driving or flying across theborder as they are today.


    April 28, 2009 at 16:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Debbie McCoy

    When 29,000 children die of hunger related illnesses, why are we talking about the swine flu? Let's talk about the starving children and how we could prevent it if we wanted to.

    April 28, 2009 at 17:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Jane

    I'm surprised that the U.S. hasn't closed its borders from Mexico until the outbreak is contained. People all over the world have been affected by the swine flu. The White House should not allow flights coming in from Mexico. Other countries should consider this tactic as well.

    Do we have to wait until it's too late. I'm really sick and tired of hearing the word unnecessary. Look what happened to the AIDS virus... now it's too late.

    Why does this country wait to put a stop sign or a left turning arrow at an intersection until someone is killed?

    I believe we have to act smart and do something a little more aggressive about this until it's too late!

    April 28, 2009 at 17:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. jeff bardon

    I don't know how this will help but in the year of 1989 i had the flu and could not get to a doctor. so i took matters into my own hinds. i knew that if you get a bite from a snake or spider they give you the fenum or something genetic like it to build you cells to fight it off. so i thought if the flu virus is in me there has to be some in my urine. so i drank at least 1/4 cup of my urine and my system built up a defence and i sweated for aleast 12 hrs or more, and the next day i could not even tell i had those symptoms. until this day i have not had even a bad cold. most people i tell this to think i'm either crazy or lieing but this is the God honest truth.

    April 28, 2009 at 19:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Troy Johnson

    I believe this virus has its own phase of geometric progression in the numbers of people that fall to it. I think many more have but we will not know for a few days and in weeks it will consume vast numbers.

    April 28, 2009 at 20:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Don K

    CDC should test the pig 'waste' at the the American pig farm in Mexico for possible source of outbreak. Smithfield (original location of outbreak) operates a massive hog-raising operations in Perote, Mexico, state of Vera Cruz. Farmers there say the 'pigs' all tested negative and all are vaccinated for swine flu. Hmmm, considering the strange new mix of flu strains involved, it most likely was created in a lab. Think how live polio can be transmitted to non-immune individuals when coming in contact with feces during a child's diaper change if proper hygiene is ignored. The pig may only be playing the host.

    April 28, 2009 at 21:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Jonathan Craine

    I am puzzled as to why you keep wearing a face mask as a preventative device for swine flu. The pore sizes on such masks are far too large to block viruses, thus making them virtually useless. Even in situations in which they are effective, most masks only retain their effectiveness for a short period of time (usually less than an hour). By continuing to imply that face masks can protect on against swine flu (or other viral infections) simply gives a false sense of security to people and leads them to not take actions that could, in fact, be protective. I have always considered your reports to be both well presented and technically correct. Given the potential for spreading swine flu, I strongly urge you to present factual information about the use of face masks.

    April 28, 2009 at 23:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Jeremy

    I am in Guatemala, where there have been several suspected cases of swine flu. In the national press, I also read about two confirmed cases in Costa Rica, and suspected cases in Peru and Colombia.

    Why aren't these cases being reported or mapped on CNN?

    April 29, 2009 at 00:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Sergio Tellez

    I had several reason to affirm that the Swine flue in Mexico is been around for more than a year, in January 6, 2008, I got all the symptoms, in the worst flu that i ever had, 40°C fever, and I sweat like a pig, I had 42 years old and in this time strong and very healty, I think I adquire the flu in the national Sanctuary at La Villa. I hope this info is useful.

    April 29, 2009 at 00:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Emerald

    Viruses can live on surfaces for longer than a few hours...
    I am not the least bit worried about this, but find it all fascinating!

    April 29, 2009 at 03:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Alana K.K. Dittrich

    Hi Sanjay,

    Although your blog says that covering a sneeze or cough with a tissue or your sleeve is advised, I am not sure if everyone understands what that means, since in the past people were taught to cover sneezes and coughs with their hands. You could do a great service to the public by describing the new health care protocol for reducing viruses more clearly by saying something like instead of using your hand, cover your sneezes and coughs by lifting and bending your arm and turning your face, so that your sneeze or cough is blocked by the inside of your elbow.

    This makes great sense, since then the virus is not on your hand – with which you touch everything and everyone, but on your elbow, which normally doesn’t come into contact with anything – certainly not doorknobs, cash machines, keyboards, etc. This is what we all need to know and to do to help curb the spread of cold and flu viruses of all kinds.

    I am a graduate student intern at the Prevention and Wellness Services of the great university from which I graduated, and we are actively promoting this protocol.

    Getting the word out on this better way to take personal responsibility for blocking viral transmission would be one of the best public services you could do, especially at this time of fear that we may be on the verge of a terrifying pandemic.

    Thank you!
    Alana K. K. Dittrich

    April 29, 2009 at 04:10 | Report abuse | Reply

    I have read many of the comments, and all of the answers posted here. However, no answers deal with the Cytokine storm my age group is susceptible too. Please answer questions dealing with this, and the subsequent treatment. I am a university student sitting in my dorm, and we are all worried to death, because if a flu goes around a college campus- nearly everyone gets it. We have googled it, used our collegiate search engines, and checked the library (we are mostly biology and chemistry upperclassmen). The precautions are great, but tried to follow them today (almost OCD like just to see) and it was near impossible to avoid all contact. Please answer how to limit the deadly cytokine storm if infected!! (AND POSSIBLY THE RECOVERY/TIME OF DEATH after infection for our age group). Also, I have seen the Spanish flu statistics, but no breakdown of a mortality rate for the 16-25 age group- just stories saying they were most of the victims.

    April 29, 2009 at 04:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Brenda Retzlaff de Rivera

    I am writing you from where I live in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

    I beleive one reason why the swine flu spread rapidly through Mexico City was because starting April 10th, 2009, over 5 million people were without water in their homes, businesses and other public areas due to the city working on the main water line and because they were rationing water due to the shortages. This was for over 36 hours in most areas.

    Previously, water was cut off in February and March for extended periods of time in Mexico City and the surrounding area.


    We all know how important washing hands are and when people do not have fresh water; influenza, viruses and other contact illnesses are easily spread.

    As well, I can also specualte why there are deaths here in Mexico and not in the U.S.
    While Mexico does have a public medical program (IMSS) many Mexican's do not use it mainly because of the long waits and having to show up at around 6:00 AM to sign in to see a doctor and the long and often painful wait in uncomfortable surroundings until you are finally seen by a doctor. Most Mexican's, even the poorest prefer to pay out of pocket for a private physcian, but only in an emergency situation and will often just ride out what they think is the common cold or flu.
    Another reason is probably because of the high pollution levels in Mexico City and they more than likely died from respritory complications.

    So, when you combine a lack of water and poor hygiene during a time when a new virus pops up, in an area of high levels of air pollution, and people without medical insurance or funds to see a doctor right away, you have a perfect host for a virus.

    April 29, 2009 at 04:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Laura Gruber-San Antonio, Texas

    Dr. Gupta,

    Can you PLEASE talk to the world during your commentaries about the absolute IMPORTANCE of a child receiving human breastmilk during an illness, especially during a flu (both while the parent or the child is sick)?

    Please talk about all the ways a parent can make that possible (pumping, in bottles, sippy cups, relactaion, etc.).

    Thank you!

    April 29, 2009 at 08:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Cautiuos Californian

    Please, can we spread the suggestion that when people cover their mouth and nose IF they cough or sneeze that they do so with a disposable tissue or with a handkerchief? If none are available, use the inside of your elbow or upper arm?

    Can't tell you how many people I see cover their mouth or nose, then go back to what they were doing - eating, running a cash register, talking to their neighbor - using that hand to touch everything in their vicinity. They may wash their hands later, but ...

    I'm not paranoid, just confused that no one seems to see this!

    Please spread the work. Thank you.

    April 29, 2009 at 11:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. James

    I would like to know the difference between this flu and the "normal" flu.

    Seems like our "normal" flu is much more deadly (to the tune of 36,000 deaths per year) whereas this one has had... 1?

    Is this just the fact that we're accustomed to the "regular flu" and dont report on it 24 hours a day, tracking each and every single case, counting by state like this "swine" flu.

    It seems to me that the media is completely blowing this out of proportion... Are they going to track infections and deaths, by state, the flu cases this flu season? If so, you better buy another another television channel just for that.

    I'm not saying "don't report it" I'm saying "dont report on it 24/7/365 and feed needless paranoia.

    April 29, 2009 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Pete

    Why are some people dying and others not? Is it because they have not been treated properly or in time? It does not make sense.

    April 29, 2009 at 17:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Seok

    Although we do not fully understand the impact of swine flu, I hope people will be socially responsible.

    The latest news is that the the first confirmed case of swine flu in Asia was recorded in Hong Kong Friday after a Mexican man who arrived via Shanghai tested positive.

    This person is a tourist. If you are not well or come from a high risk area, it makes good sense to postpone your trip.

    As a result, 200 guest and 100 staff will have to be quarantine in the hotel for 7 days. The whole are had to be cordened off, and whole hotel cleaned which takes a lot of resources and money.

    The tourist also travelled via Shanghai, exposing a very highly populate area and China. He also exposed innocent people on the plane. Is it so necessary to put so many at risk for a holiday? I really do not understand such actions.

    Just one action of a lone person puts so many at risks, as such I think we should really look at travel restrictions for at risk individuals, if people cannot make the right decisions on their own.

    May 1, 2009 at 23:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. ashley

    I agree with the other who said the nonstop coverage is unnecessary. This is indeed an important situation we're all in, but how is it deadlier than regular flu? Let's just hope things clear out. And people who are traveling and contain the swine flue are careless people who NEED to think of the rest of the world and not just thenselves.

    May 3, 2009 at 23:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. JS

    I have a question, now that the USA has 40% more cases of Swine Flu than Mexico, the US Govt says Swine Flu is no worse than the regular flu, why would the CDC continue to have a travel warning in place for travel to Mexico, particularly when Mexico's major resort communities have a total of 2 confirmed cases vs.1639 confirmed cases in the USA?

    This is having the effect of the cruise ships hauling thousands of people through the infected coastal areas of the USA where an outbreak is quite possible instead of Mexican ports where there have been zero swine flu cases. This seems counter-intuitive. Are they just trying to protect Mexicans against the U.S. swine flu? It's the only thing I can think of.

    May 8, 2009 at 21:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. clare

    My best friend is a doctor who works at a health clinic. She had a patient who had visited Mexico a few weeks ago. She swabbed the patient and called the state public health dept. They told her that they had "too many" swabs to check them all and to give the patient tamiflu and send her home–which she did. They did not test to see if her patient had the swine flu nor did they test the patient's family. Subsequently my friend became ill and took tamiflu. Who knows how many people were infected due to this lack of dilegence on the part of the public health dept...

    May 11, 2009 at 03:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. judypudy

    Why are the drs. only testing 4 swine flu if uv been to Mexico? If the flu is worldwide and they want to track it. The flu travels i dont have to go to mexico to get it .I dont understand this.

    May 15, 2009 at 12:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. anthony

    Is H1N1 air born? What do all the people who got it have in common?

    May 15, 2009 at 15:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Tell the truth, Doc!

    To all, dealing with this new disease virus, it sounds like no one has real ideas presently, therefore, washing hands and preventing public gathering are the only two measures that we can take.

    Sadly, how poor of our medical science in such a technological 21 century? I can't believe this is true.

    At such timing, public panic is the inevitable phenomena. But we need medical professionals to speak out firmly to tell the government and each individual of us, to tell us how to prevent. This must be in a honest and responsible manner with their professional ethics.

    May 16, 2009 at 15:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. janebeddow

    what should i look for in my two handicapped children with the flulike symptoms espically my handicapped daughter who gets's sick alot and she has seizuires and she is a diabetic right now.what can i do. a mother of two. thank you. jane beddow

    May 19, 2009 at 13:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Iraida Duffie

    I agree with you


    December 1, 2020 at 06:48 | 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.

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