What to look out for and how you can avoid infection
What are the symptoms of swine flu? They are similar to symptoms of regular seasonal flu – fever, fatigue, lack of appetite, coughing and sore throat. Some people have reported vomiting and diarrhoea.
How dangerous is it?
There are many types of swine flu. The current cases involve the H1N1 virus strain. The latest outbreak has seen the constantly changing infection spreading from person to person. Thousands of people have been made ill by swine flu – with more than 150 suspected deaths in Mexico and a single death – of a Mexican child – in the United States. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned the world is closer to a pandemic than at any point since 1968.
Can the virus be contained?
Most experts say containment in the era of readily available air travel will be difficult. The WHO says restricting flights will have little effect. It argues screening of passengers is also unlikely to have much impact, as symptoms may not be apparent in the infected.
Why have so many people died in Mexico?
The WHO has said there is no clear reason why the virus seems to have been fatal in Mexico, while symptoms elsewhere have been mostly mild. Some experts say other, unrelated viruses may be circulating in Mexico.
Those infected outside Mexico may have sought treatment at a much earlier stage. The virus killing people in Mexico could be subtly different to that elsewhere.
Can swine flu be treated?
Two drugs commonly used to treat flu, Tamiflu and Relenza, seem to be effective at treating cases that have occurred so far.
However, the drugs must be administered at an early stage to be effective. Their use may also make it less likely that infected people will pass the virus on.
How do these drugs work?
Tamiflu and Relenza both work by inhibiting a flu protein called neuraminidase — the "N" of H1N1. Flu uses this protein to escape the human cells in which it replicates, so fresh virus particles can spread infection.
Will these drugs be available if I get ill?
Yes, if you are thought to have the virus. A stockpile of 33 million courses of antivirals has been bought under the government's pandemic plan – enough for half the population. The Prime Minister has announced a fresh order, bringing supplies up to 50 million doses.
How will I get the drugs?
Patients who fall ill will be assessed by telephone, and those with symptoms consistent with pandemic flu should get antivirals within 12 to 24 hours of diagnosis. The drugs will be delivered, or picked up by a friend or family member.
Should everyone be wearing face masks?
The government's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, says they only offer a "false sense of security". He says the scientific advice is that face masks are of very little value. Masks quickly become moist, enhancing the risk of transmitting the virus, which can pass through the pores. But the government is ordering more surgical masks with filters for use by front-line NHS staff.
What can people do to reduce the risk of catching swine flu?
Use a tissue to catch coughs and sneezes, throw away used tissues and regularly wash your hands with soap and water.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 18 June 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: South
Temperature: 10 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: West