Currently, the WHO has a threat level of 3 but is considering raising it to 4. WHO officials said they are not yet convinced that this is a pandemic and there are still a lot of questions about the strength and lethality of the swine flu virus.
"[Prevention is] no different than any other pandemic flu, and those are kind of simple things -- wash your hands a lot, don't shake hands or hug or kiss people if you're sick, don't go to work, self-qurantine yourself," said Peter Katona, an associate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Medical Center.
1. Wash hands frequently: This will lessen the chance of carrying or transmitting any viruses that normally get stuck on the hands in day-to-day activities. Try to avoid rubbing eyes or touching nose with dirty hands. Wash hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
2. Try to avoid people who are coughing and sneezing: The CDC advises people to cover their nose and mouth with a tissue when they cough or sneeze and throw the tissue in the trash after using it. Try to teach your kids to do the same. Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
3. If experiencing flu-like symptoms, don't go out -- stay at home. Call a healthcare provider, particularly if a person has been to Mexico, southern California and southern Texas. The CDC recommends that people who get sick stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
4. Taking a trip to Mexico? Rethink your plans. Schaffner said that unless you have a compelling reason to go, you might want to reconsider. Many airlines, including Continental, US Airways and American Airlines, are waiving cancellation fees on tickets to Mexico.
5. Stay informed and plan ahead: Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said it's important to stay informed about what's going on in one's community, and whether the authorities -- such as the state or county health departments -- have issued any recommendations. It's a good idea to plan for what to do if children's school is closed.
6. Keep sick kids out of school, and stay home from work if you are sick. Aside from providing needed rest, such absences protect others from catching whatever you or your kid has. Keep at least a few feet's distance if you have the flu or are interacting with someone who has the flu. The communicable distance for most flu viruses is about three feet, so keep clear of this radius in order to avoid spread. If dealing with a flu case at home, make sure the flu sufferer (and even those who interact with this person) wear facial masks to lower the chances of spread.
7. Avoid surfaces and objects that may be handled by many people. For kids, this may include doctor's office toys, surfaces that a lot of other kids are touching. Keep all surfaces and objects around the house clean. This becomes especially relevant if there is someone in that house who is sick or has the flu already. Try to teach kids not to touch their faces. This is like mass transit for germs: straight from the hands to the eyes, nose and mouth.