Feature Archive

Swine Flu: 10 Things Not to Do

Why you should nix swine flu parties, and other swine flu don'ts.

By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Feature

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Swine flu isn't in the headlines as much as it was a couple of months ago, and while there have been deaths and hospitalizations in countries worldwide, most cases have been relatively mild.

That's the good news. But the bad news is, swine flu isn't gone. In fact, it may pick up steam during the usual flu season -- and it could worsen.

With that in mind, here are 10 swine flu "don'ts" -- things not to do for swine flu prevention.

1. Don't expect seasonal flu vaccination to prevent swine flu.

The seasonal flu vaccine doesn't protect against swine flu. Scientists are working on a swine flu vaccine, but that will be a separate vaccination.

Do get vaccinated against seasonal flu, when that vaccine becomes available. Seasonal flu can be serious, especially for infants, elders, and people with weak immune systems. The CDC notes that seasonal flu or its complications kill an average of 36,000 people per year in the U.S. and hospitalize more than 200,000 people.

Getting vaccinated each year against seasonal flu is the single best way to protect against seasonal flu, according to the CDC.

2. Don't count on a face mask to prevent swine flu infection.

According to the CDC, it's not clear how effective face masks are at preventing the transmission of the H1N1 or seasonal influenza viruses. The same is true for respirators worn snugly over the face as filters.

The CDC doesn't recommend face masks or respirators in most settings, except if you're at high risk of severe illness from influenza and are caring for someone who has a flu-like illness, or for high-risk people who can't avoid being in a crowded setting where the swine flu virus is present.

3. Don't hold or attend a swine flu party.

The guest of honor at a swine flu party is someone who's got swine flu. The point is for other guests to catch the virus in the hopes that they'll have a mild illness and gain immunity so that they won't get sick if the H1N1 virus worsens.

That's a bad idea, according to the CDC, because there's no way to know whether swine flu will be severe or fatal in swine flu party guests -- or anyone else that they, in turn, infect.

4. Don't neglect planning.

Remember all those swine flu school closings last spring? That could happen again when the new school year starts. So now's the time for parents to plan how they would handle a child's school closing for several days or weeks.

Workers may also want to look into how their company handles sick leave or time off to care for someone with swine flu. And you might also want to stock up on tissues, disinfectants, and soap or alcohol-based hand sanitizers for work and home.

5. Don't forget to clean up.

Flu viruses can linger on books, toys, countertops, doorknobs, phones, linens, eating utensils, and other objects. Use a household disinfectant, following the directions on the products' label.

The CDC recommends that when you launder linens of someone who has the flu, don't hug the laundry before washing it, and set the clothes dryer to the hot setting. Wash your hands with soap and water (or use an alcohol-based hand gel) immediately after handling dirty laundry.

6. Don't get complacent.

Don't shrug off swine flu precautions. The H1N1 swine flu virus is still around, and the CDC expects more hospitalizations and more deaths from the swine flu virus.

Here are the CDC's tips for reducing swine flu infection:

  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Use a tissue or your arm -- not your hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Or use an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Stay home if you are sick for seven days after your symptoms begin or until you have been symptom-free for 24 hours (whichever is longer) to keep from infecting others.