American health officials announced a public health emergency on Sunday after 20 cases of swine flu (swine influenza A H1N1), were confirmed in the country. The virus is apparently identical to the one in Mexico believed to have killed 103 people and sickened 1,600. Thankfully, no swine flu related deaths have been reported in the U.S. and so far, the reported cases are said to be mild.
As stated on the CDC website, swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza virus that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza in pigs. The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal influenza and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
In addition to the reported outbreaks in the U.S. and Mexico, the virus has appeared in Canada, the U.K., China, Japan, and Russia. Each country is enacting their own security measures. U.S. health officials declared an emergency to open up funding for antiviral drugs and testing that has otherwise been unapproved. As reported in The New York Times, one-quarter of the national stockpile of 50 million courses of antiviral drugs will be released. Border patrols and airport security officers have been asked to check travelers for the flu or fever. Officials urge citizens not to panic since these measures are simply procedural. Though other countries are handing out face masks for protection and a couple of schools have closed in the U.S. to prevent further outbreak, the advice so far is similar to the advice given for a typical flu or common cold -- wash your hands frequently, stay home if you feel sick, and cover sneezes and coughs with your hands. And of course, seek medical attention if you're experiencing the symptoms. You cannot get the virus from eating properly cooked pork.
For more swine flu FAQs, visit to the World Health Organization website.