There’s a lot of concern about the swine flu vaccine. People want to know if it’s safe, if everyone should get vaccinated, and how much vaccine will be available. But there also needs to be more attention given to prevention. You’ll rest easier if you reduce your chances of becoming infected in the first place.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the use of facemasks and respirators for decreasing the risk of swine flu infection. There haven’t been any widespread studies done to prove the effectiveness of these measures. The CDC recommendation is based on prior results of facemasks' and respirators' usefulness in stopping the spread of the flu and other respiratory viruses.
Nothing provides complete protection against the swine flu virus. But there are ways to reduce the risk of infection. The CDC recommends:
- Washing your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizers when soap and water aren’t available.
- Always cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Using a tissue is better than using your hands. But if you must use your hands, wash them immediately after. This will prevent you from spreading the virus in case you’re infected. If everyone did this, it would greatly decrease the spread of the virus.
- Keep your hands out of your face. Germs can easily enter the body through the mouth, nose, and eyes.
- If you’re sick with flu-like symptoms, avoid going to work, school, or any other public place besides maybe the hospital. Stay away from others unless it’s absolutely necessary.
- Stay away from anyone that exhibits flu-like symptoms. If this isn’t possible, wearing a government approved facemask is advised.
Wearing a facemask isn’t always recommended. For example, you wouldn’t need to wear a facemask in your home. If a person in your home has the virus, you’ve already been exposed by the time they start to show flu-like symptoms.
The CDC recommends facemasks and respirators for people that work in certain settings. Healthcare and emergency workers are at the most risk.
If you work in a high risk environment, like a hospital, here are some ways to increase your safety:
- Request that patients cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.
- Reduce the amount of time you spend with infected patients. Keep your interactions brief if possible.
- If a facemask is available, the infected patient should wear it.
- If you’re in a high-risk group for infection, avoid any exposure to infected patients. People with chronic illnesses and those between the ages of 5 years to 24 years old are more likely to become infected with the swine flu virus. You may have to take time from work or ask to be reassigned.
- If you can’t avoid contact with infected patients, you can wear a facemask.
Facemasks are good for protecting the nose and mouth from blood and other bodily fluids that may contain the virus.
If you’re concerned with your safety, purchase a government approved N95 mask. There are also masks available for children. We recommend a Pandemic Swine Flu Family Protection Kit or a Basic Pandemic Swine Flu Survival Kit.