What’s New With Swine Flu (H1N1 2009)

A couple buzzwords have surfaced as a result of the H1N1 (swine) flu.

Social distancing” and “pandemic” are the latest additions to the vernacular. Avoiding crowds of people where the risk of infection is the highest is the social distance thought to reduce the spread of swine flu. It’s an airborne virus and is thought to spread quickly among people in close contact. If we avoid contact we avoid infection.

The word pandemic has been around for as long as there as been people on every continent getting sick. But, with this year’s swine flu outbreak – thought to originate in Mexico – it has been tossed around the media like a catch phrase. Yes, swine flu is pandemic simply because it has spread around the world in a few weeks.

What’s interesting is if you read my other story today is that technology – specifically the Internet – is being used to fight the disease. Twitter is buzzing with swine flu tweets. But like everything important, people should look before they leap.

Public health experts say the Internet can be an important source of information on the H1N1 virus, but you need to know who’s at the helm. “In the current swine flu situation, some [sources] are alarmist, where others present a more balanced picture of concern,” says Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, director of communicable disease control and prevention for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services and a professor of epidemiology at the UCLA School of Public Health.

On the other hand, knowledgeable, trusted sources, like the CDC, are on the Internet too and they are trying to spread the word faster than the disinformation sources and rumor mills.

Lest we forget pig farmers are non too happy with calling it swine flu. Pork belly futures are down; sales are lower. So, officials are using the scientific name Influenza A H1N1.