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Swine Flu Update

Okay, let's take a deep breath.

As alarming as it might sound to hear that the federal government has declared the swine flu outbreak "a public health emergency," it's important, as this article notes, to keep in mind that that declaration is a procedural one that simply helps us better prepare should an actual emergency ensue. While the government and public health officials worldwide take the measure of the outbreak and figure out how to contain it, the rest of us can do our part by staying informed -- and calm.

It is also a good occasion for us all to get back to the basics of keeping ourselves and those around us healthy. Swine flu or no swine flu, we should all be practicing hygiene 101. Need a refresher course? Here you go, courtesy of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way. Try to avoid close contact with sick people. Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people. If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

For up-to-date information, check the swine flu section of the CDC's Web site or your state's public health department's site. Here are links for D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

We'll be keeping you posted as new information develops.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  April 27, 2009; 10:00 AM ET
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