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Swine Flu Q&A: What You Need to Know

Andrew Pekosz, associate professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, answers questions about swine flu.
-- Shankar Vedantam

If I take Tamiflu after getting the flu, will it affect how much immunity I get to the virus?

No, it should not. Tamiflu inhibits virus replication, but the person's immune response is still needed to control and clear the infection so he or she develops immunity against the virus.

Should I travel by car instead of public transportation?

At this time, there is no reason for people to avoid public transportation unless they themselves are sick.

Should I wear a mask to the supermarket?

No. There are not enough cases in the area to merit taking this kind of precaution.

Should I cancel a regular physical to avoid the risk of being at the doctor's office with infected people?

There are not enough cases of influenza in the area for this to be a concern. Physicians' offices and emergency rooms should have specialized plans for bringing in sick individuals for treatment that will minimize contact with other patients.

Are there any symptoms that can help me distinguish between a serious flu infection and a garden-variety infection? What symptoms would tell me whether to a) stay home and rest or b) seek medical help right away?

Unfortunately, influenza caused by either seasonal strains or the swine flu virus produces the same clinical symptoms in roughly the same way. At this time, you should suspect swine flu only if you have been to an area that has widespread cases or if you have been in direct contact with a person who has recently been to one of these areas. Either way, you should still stay home and consult a physician.

What can we do to boost our immunity to the flu and other infections?

Eat a balanced diet, exercise and get plenty of sleep. It may sound simple, but it is the best way to stay healthy.

Is a multivitamin pill a good idea? What about an extra-strong dose of Vitamin C?

There is nothing wrong with taking a multivitamin pill to maintain your health. There are no data suggesting extra Vitamin C will provide any benefit against influenza infection.

If you have questions about swine flu, please e-mail health@washpost.com.

By washingtonpost.com editors  |  April 30, 2009; 11:25 AM ET
Categories:  Prevention , Q & A  
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