Albany doctor teaches Swine Flu 101 - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Albany doctor teaches Swine Flu 101

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By Len Kiese - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Swine flu is creeping closer to Georgia. Suspected cases were reported Wednesday in children in north Alabama and middle Tennessee. There's now one death in the country--a toddler in Texas.

It's definitely something we all need to monitor but has the swine flu outbreak caused more hype and hysteria than necessary?

It's been all over the headlines and the airwaves. "I just heard something about it last night on the news," said Abraham Roberts III.

Swine flu is on the minds of many and people have heard it all. "A lot of things on the news," said Charlie Rouse, "I hear it's coming out of Mexico. They've traced it back to China."

But questions remain for folks. "I'm not actually too sure how you get it," said Roberts.

There's one big question.  Should people be concerned? "From what I've heard, it's something that we need to be very concerned about," said Roberts.

"Everybody with a runny nose wonders could this be the swine flu," said Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Craig Smith. Smith has received several calls wondering about symptoms.

"Unless you've been in contact with somebody who's been to Mexico or been to one of the cities, then the chance of getting sick in Albany, Georgia is probably zero," said Smith.

Because of a barrage of information out there, we went to Smith for some Swine Flu 101. Believe it or not, swine flu is not new. It's actually around all the time.

"This particular one is a little bit different because it took some of the genes from the bird flu and the human flu and mixed it with a swine so it's a new combination," said Smith.

The outbreak is suspected in 159 deaths in Mexico and one so far in the United States. In contrast, every year, the common strain of influenza has a death toll in the tens of thousands. "Every year probably about 30,000 people die in the United States and 500,000 people around the world from influenza-like illnesses," said Smith.

The Centers for Disease Control expects more cases and deaths from swine flu. Dr. Smith says people should remain calm. We are prepared. "We have the doctors that know how. We have public health who knows how to approach it. We have the medicines. We don't have a vaccine because it always takes six to twelve months to develop a vaccine," said Smith.

Even though there's no vaccine, Smith says we can get through this with things like Tamiflu which has helped swine flu patients recover. Dr. Smith also clears up another big concern going around.

"It's impossible to get swine flu from meat. You can't get it from eating. It's in nasal secretions or anything like a cold and stuff like that and I tell you if I can't have barbeque, I'll probably die tomorrow," joked Smith.

One thing is certain.  We'll be hearing about swine flu for weeks to come.

Dr. Smith says we all need to wash our hands regularly.  Practice sneeze and cough etiquette and stay home if we're sick.  

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