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April 30th, 2009
06:00 AM ET

Why should we be worried about this flu?

As the international outbreak of swine flu, or 2009 H1N1 virus, continues, CNN is answering more of your questions.

Q: The common flu kills tens of thousands every year, and there has been one swine flu death in the country.  Why is there such concern about the swine flu?

CNN: Experts are nervous that, as a new strain, the swine flu will be harder to stop because there aren't any vaccines to fight it and that over time, it might transform into something more deadly as it passes from human to human.

Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization, said Wednesday that a new virus “is evolving rather quickly.”

“It’s important to take this very seriously and to maintain our vigilance and to track the virus,” she said.  Chan warned against panicking. “It is important not to overkill.  We need to maintain a level of calmness so that we will continue to manage this in a rational manner.”

For more: Regular flu has killed thousands since January

Q: Will face masks keep me safe?

CNN: We’ve received a lot of questions about face masks.  CNN.com’s article Masks keep you from spreading illness addressed this question.  A World Health Organization official said the masks are mainly useful to prevent spreading the virus, “not so much to stop people from catching the virus."

Q: Are hand sanitizers as effective as soap?

CNN: The purpose is to kill germs on your hands.  When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used. If using gel, rub your hands until the gel is dry. The gel doesn't need water to work. The alcohol in it kills the germs on your hands, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Q: Will a flu shot help prevent swine flu?

CNN: The seasonal flu vaccine doesn't protect against the strain of swine flu. “At this point we don't see that there was a protective value from that vaccine for this new strain,” said Dr. Richard Besser, the acting CDC director at a news conference Tuesday.

Check back on the blog for answers to viewers' frequently asked questions.


Filed under: Global Health • H1N1 Flu

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About this blog

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.