05/27/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Swine Flu - Don't Panic

Many of my friends are calling today, worried about Swine Flu, what it is and what they should do to protect themselves and their families.

First, do not panic.
This is what we know:

There have been 20 cases confirmed in the US - NONE HAVE DIED, and only 2 were severe enough to be hospitalized

These states have confirmed cases of Swine Flu
• 8 in New York
• 7 in California
• 2 in Kansas
• 2 in Texas
• 1 in Ohio

Why the CDC is concerned

1. In New York, the 8 cases are all high school students from St. Francis Prep in Queens. Students from this school had traveled to Mexico City in the last 2 weeks. It's not yet known if the students with Swine Flu are the same ones who went to Mexico City or if they were infected by a classmate who traveled there. All of the students in New York are recovering.

2. The virus is the same as the one in Mexico, which is responsible for at least 16 deaths. You may have seen reports of 86 deaths, which was reported today by the Mexican Health Minister. The CDC has yet to confirm that all of those cases were conclusively caused by Swine Flu.

3. The Swine Flu has the potential to cause a pandemic, because it can be transmitted from person to person, which makes it serious, potentially life threatening, and needs to be monitored carefully.

What can people do:

Watch for flu symptoms and see you health care provider for

• Fever
• Cough
• Sore Throat
• Body Aches
• Headache
• Chills
• Fatigue
• Some people also have diarrhea and vomiting

Most important:
• If you are sick, see your health care provider, stay home, don't travel, don't go to work and don't send your kids to school.
• People may be contagious as long as 7 days after all symptoms have resolved (gone away).

Are there medications to treat?
• Tamiflu & Relenza - these are effective, recommended by the CDC and help prevent the virus from worsening and causing more severe symptoms. They can be taken as soon as symptoms start, or as soon as a person suspects exposure.

Prevention and Precautions:

•Good old fashioned hand washing with soap and water or an alcohol based cleaner
• Use a tissue for coughing and sneezing, and then throw them away
•Stay away from people who are sick

What about eating Pork?

Eating pork DOES NOT cause Swine flu. As long as you cook it thoroughly, it's still safe to eat pork.

I'll provide regular updates. Be well, and try not to panic. The Swine Flu can be a very serious infection, but there are few cases in the US and all of the people infected have recovered or are recovering. Stay safe by taking precautions.