— As the World Health Organization signaled an increase in the risk of a global epidemic of swine flu, msnbc.com readers expressed worries about travel to Mexico — where the outbreak is most severe — and other dangers from the disease.
NBC Chief Science and Health Correspondent Robert Bazell addresses your questions on swine flu.
That is a critical question about the deaths in Mexico. That’s what investigators from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control are investigating very actively, because a lot more needs to be understood about the deaths before we can understand the threat. The age of the victims has been reportedly been people in their 20s, 30s and 40s, which is one of the most frightening things about it, because flu usually strikes and kills the very old and frail, and sometimes the very young. In 1918, the ultimate pandemic we know about killed healthy young adults. That’s one of the reasons why this outbreak is potentially frightening. We still have to understand more.
As for the incubation period, from the cases in the United States and even Mexico, the incubation period from the time of exposure to the onset of symptoms seems to be three to four days. They originally thought it was less, but have since determined it is three to four days.
Preventive doses of Tamiflu can be used when there’s an infected case. It can be given to family members and that has been done. But it’s not something people should do on their own. It’s not advised for the general population at all. The reasons for that is, if a lot of people start taking a drug, it’s very much like antibiotics — a resistant strain could appear and make the situation far more dangerous than it is.
The biggest use of Tamiflu will be for people who already have symptoms in this country. So far, fortunately, in this country, the symptoms have been relatively mild. Tamiflu and Relenza are the drugs that are known to be effective.
Definitely. It’s called swine flu because it’s always given a name. It has genetic components from pigs as well as human and birds, as most flu viruses do. But this happens to be a virus that infects humans. It is absolutely safe to eat pork products, as long as you cook them well.
No, even though that was also called swine flu. It was an unusual situation that developed in 13 recruits at Fort Dix, N.J. and resulted in one death.
It’s not the same virus so a previous vaccination for that would not help.
We are going to Cabos San Lucas, Mexico in 2 weeks, staying at an all inclusive resort. Should we cancel or keep our reservations?
I can’t advise you what to do, but the state department is issuing recommendations about this and so is the Centers for Disease Control. I would advise you to read them very carefully and pay attention.
If they haven’t shown any signs of not feeling well, they should be fine since the incubation period is three to four days. If it's three to four days out, there’s no problem and no reason to think they would have gotten ill.
Let’s not forget, that just because a country is having an outbreak or an infection doesn’t mean everyone in the country is infected or everybody is going to get infected.
Even if you’re in a city where there is a lot of flu, if you are careful about washing your hands and not kissing people and staying away from crowds, it doesn’t mean you are going to get infected.