Ask the OnCall+ Experts: Swine Flu

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IMPORTANT: The contents of this site are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this site.

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Your Questions Answered

Question: How does the HIPAA act affect an employer's responsibility to warn workers who are pregnant or are in the underlying conditions category if they learn other co-workers may potentially have the swine flu?

Answer: Click here for the answer from an expert in health care law.

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Question: What effect with this Level 6 pandemic declaration have on my cruise to Mexico in July?

Answer: The World Health Organization (WHO) did not recommend any travel restrictions/alerts along with the Level 6 declaration of pandemic flu. As it stands now, there should be no effect on your travel plans to Mexico unless otherwise advised, for example, if cases increase drastically in the next two weeks (which may be less likely given the ending of flu season). You should continue to practice good hand hygiene for flu protection when you are there.

- Ed Hsu, Ph.D., Assoc. Prof. of Health Informatics, University of Texas Health Science Center
(Posted: June 16, 2009)

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Question: I lead a missions group of families to Baja Mexico. Have there been any reported cases in Baja? What if a member of our team gets the flu while in Mexico? Are we allowed to return to the U.S. if we are U.S. citizens with flu-like symptoms?

Answer: Baja Mexico does not have as many cases as other part of Mexico. (In mid-May there was only one case versus hundreds of cases in other parts of Mexico.) If a member of the team gets the flu while in Mexico, the member is allowed to return to the U.S. without any problems. There is no applicable law excluding any U.S. citizen from returning to the U.S. due to health reasons. Relevant laws such as quarantine and isolation were in discussion and may be implemented depending on the case increase.

- Ed Hsu, Ph.D., Assoc. Prof. of Health Informatics, University of Texas Health Science Center
(Posted: June 16, 2009)

Your Swine Flu Questions Answered

Question: How bad is swine flu in Cancun, Mexico?

Answer: It's mild in Cancun. The risk of contracting swine flu in Cancun is no greater than contracting it elsewhere in Mexico. You should continue to practice good hand hygiene for flu protection when you are there.

- Ed Hsu, Ph.D., Assoc. Prof. of Health Informatics, University of Texas Health Science Center
(Posted: June 16, 2009)

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Question: If I ever had to wear a face mask for swine flu, should I wear it only for one day then discard it, or should I follow the directions in the product container?

Answer: If you are wearing it while caring for H1N1 patients, you should change it on a daily basis. Otherwise, you should follow any directions in the product container.

- Ed Hsu, Ph.D., Assoc. Prof. of Health Informatics, University of Texas Health Science Center
(Posted: June 16, 2009)

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Question: Will an air purifier with a UV light help protect me from swine flu? Will a humidifier help?

Answer: There is no scientific proof (the literature, or any study) that suggests that ultraviolet light, a purifier or humidifier will help with preventing H1N1 infection.

- Ed Hsu, Ph.D., Assoc. Prof. of Health Informatics, University of Texas Health Science Center
(Posted: June 16, 2009)

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Question: How can you tell the difference between regular seasonal flu and the swine flu? What do you do if you have the flu but can't tell the difference?

Answer: As of the day this response was written (June 5, 2009), the symptoms of swine flu appear to be very similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu. In fact, even doctors have little ability to tell the difference, says Dr. Matthew Sztajnkrycer, associate professor of emergency medicine at the Mayo Clinic. We encourage you to take a look at our index of questions and answers on swine flu symptoms for much more information. Take care.

Your Swine Flu Questions Answered

Question: If someone has recovered from swine flu, can they get it again?

Answer: They won't get that exact subtype, but could be infected with a variant that was sufficiently different from the original virus.

- Dr. Gregory Poland, Director, Translational Immunovirology and Biodefense, Mayo Clinic

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Question: How do I go about disinfecting my home if someone in the household has swine flu?

Answer: I would take the usual precautions, asking the person to wear a mask when in common rooms. Be sure the room is well-ventilated. A simple solution of warm water and bleach is enough to clean commonly touched surfaces. (Be sure the bleach will not ruin the surface or color by testing first.) Or any cleaner that is viricidal.

- Dr. Gregory Poland, Director, Translational Immunovirology and Biodefense, Mayo Clinic

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Question: How many Americans have died from swine flu?

Answer: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking such statistics. Click here to see a recent map of swine flu activity and the number of confirmed and probable cases by state (and deaths). You can also find a link to several other swine flu resources on our site by clicking here.

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If you want to ask your own question about swine flu, go to the OnCall+ Swine Flu Center and look for the submission form. For more health information, go to ABCNews.com Health.

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