Page last updated at 02:28 GMT, Friday, 1 May 2009 03:28 UK

How can we avoid a swine flu pandemic?

The UN's World Health Organization has raised the alert over swine flu from level four to level five - a strong signal a pandemic is imminent. Are you taking more precautions?


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How utterly amazed I was to see hundreds of travellers freely arriving at Heathrow from Mexico, and being handed...a leaflet! How about a dose of Tamiflu being administered to everyone on the plane at least, or a few days quarantine? No, our forward thinking government let them all walk in, then go to the shops or work tomorrow, and spread their flu virus amongst us. Stupid, stupid government. Leaflets will not cure the pandemic! If you've just come back from Mexico, please go to Downing Street and cough and splutter as much as you can.
Chris, Coventry UK

Not concerned about swine flu - it appears to cause a mild illness. But what is fascinating and imperative to study for its future implications is how quickly it is spreading across the globe due to modern travel patterns. The map is amazing - from Mexico to Canada to New Zealand to every continent in a couple of weeks perhaps? This must one day result in an accelerated pace of flu mutations and if a deadlier strain does develop, it will doubtlessly spread faster than any virus in history.
David, Seattle, USA

Isn't it time to ban all sporting events, concert and theatre performances now? Surely there can be no excuse for allowing people to cough and splutter over each other in such close proximity. It's a recipe for disaster. I am stocked up with rice and beans and I am retiring to my room until all of this is over. It's the only way forward.
L A Odicean, Sidcup

Swine Flu pandemic - and the hay-fever is starting now too...
Anne Mendelson, Welwyn Garden City, UK

Although Swine Flu hasn't spread all around Britain I am still worried but as long as I've got my hand gel I feel safer and less concerned.
Rachael, Richmond, Surrey

I might be hit by a bus on the way home tonight. Methinks the media is getting a mite hysterical.
Andrew Goodall, Edinburgh

No panic should be there although taking some precautious and curative measures would be wise. It was the same with 'bird flu', which broke out several times in the past and subsided too. May all the global humanity be blessed!
AR Shams, Pakistan

I don't think we can avoid it. We just have to try and recognise the signs so that we can be treated early if necessary.
Soojie, HW

Please read the proper facts. This is no more serious than 'normal 'flu' and should present no danger to healthy people. Masks are useless. The only way to stop it in its tracks is to make the entire world stay at home, alone, with no contact with anyone for two weeks. But it is just flu. WHO says at least 250,000 die of flu in the world every year. This is an attempt by the government to panic us into forgetting the real situation of the economy, sleaze and war.
Jaye, England

It's sad to see people dying of this form of flu but why has the media not covered the death of the estimated half million people who die every year from seasonal flu viruses? Aren't we in danger of talking up an epidemic which is small in comparison to what happens normally anyway?
Mike, Berks, UK

236 confirmed cases is a pandemic?? John B, Windermere, US
I believe that a pandemic is defined by the geographical spread and method of transmission rather on the basis of the number of cases or even the level of threat to life.
Jim Corrigan, Gateway City

Why is the government giving out Tamiflu to healthy people? If this course of action is pursued will we not deplete the stock for no good reason? Surely if someone is at risk, like children in a school, then they should be told to stay indoors for a period of time to see if they become symptomatic. If they do, then prescribe. I can't help but feel that we may run out and then get flanked by a more lethal H1N1 variant.
Chris Undritz, Redditch

I am worried about the spread of the flu. I think schools should be shut as there are lots of children with colds and who are worrying they have the flu. Also, there are lots more cases and there are going to be many more and who knows if they have it or not as you cannot know if you have it up to a week. And especially in Dartmouth as it is very small and likely to spread quickly.
Steph, Devon

Besides a number of preventive measures taken I would prefer in addition to them suggesting to governments to postpone importing and exporting of humans etc. from or to overseas so that the probability of further spreading 'swine flu' can be lowered to a great extent.
A.R.Shams, Pakistan

Just take the same precautions you would with the ordinary flu. Wash hands often, avoid public gatherings and buffet dining where everyone touches the same serving wares.
Ralph Kimball, USA

236 confirmed cases is a pandemic??
John B, Windermere, US

Couldn't people have been quarantined for a few days, either before leaving Mexico, or after arrival on a flight from Mexico? The virus is now more widespread and a lot more difficult to contain.
Pippanb, Boston, USA

So far there are seven confirmed deaths. (The 170 figure is unconfirmed). Seven deaths do not make a pandemic.
John Evans, Caerphilly

You can't avoid it - it's already here. You could prevent a recurrence by placing all international travellers in quarantine for a fortnight before letting them inflict their diseases on society.
David, Cornwall, UK

I think the advice to "bin" tissues is just creating another problem for the unfortunate cleaners in offices around the country. We should encourage people to "flush" the tissues. Please change the advice.
Andrew, Suffolk, England

Am I the only one who thinks that reporters are at risk of catching and spreading swine flu by visiting affected areas? Or are they immune?
D Smith, Scunthorpe, England

Are we panicking again? It's just like ordinary flu. There was the same scare about avian flu, and absolutely nothing came of that.
Daniel, Kent, UK

There was an outbreak of a different strain of swine flu in 1976 and a vaccine was developed and tested on volunteers and on the U.S. military: the side effects of the vaccine killed more people than the flu itself. I was in the service then and received the vaccine myself; I was sick as a dog for a week.
Scott W, Port Orchard, USA

The answer lies in understanding what kept those who worked among the afflicted from contracting the bubonic plague. There were no cures then and yet the workers remained unaffected.
N Rama, Sydney, Australia

Hear we go again. First bird flu and now swine flu. When will the BBC ever learn that the public is not in the slightest bit worried about this drivel. Eight people now confirmed in the UK with two of them are now rid of it. I bet you more people died last winter of normal flu than eight people. Utter trash reporting.
Scott Murray, Inverness

Why are people buying and wearing facial masks? They are just as useless as they were throughout the Bubonic Plague - do people never learn? Maintaining good levels of hygiene is the best way to limit contamination, but nothing is infallible. Flu kills people every year, as does cancer and many other nasty viruses or diseases, but we don't panic about them. Yet again the media whips the general public into a state of anxiety.
CM, London

I think people coming over from Mexico should go into quarantine for seven days. That should contain the virus until a vaccine is found.
Alison MacInnes, Fleet, England

I am trying to understand the "continual" coverage of the swine flu. Admittedly, I am not a medical professional. However, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control's website 36,000 Americans die each year of influenza. This average is within the range of 17,000 to as high as 50,000 deaths a year. So where is the constant media coverage each year, the public concern, the near-panic? I apologise to those who are ill with swine flu and who have lost loved ones, but annually there are thousands who die from influenza with little or no exposure in the media. Let's use some logic here.
D.C. Quillan Stone, Memphis, soon to be Sao Paulo

I worry that as usual the government is using spin to convince us of how well prepared we are to deal with this. Also, Mexico has advised people to stay at home - something we would never do as the economy has to come ahead of everything else, regardless of the potential human cost.
Neil, London

A question has occurred to me reading the reports on this 'swine flu'. This latest version of H1N1 contains genetic material that is typically found in strains of the virus that affect humans, birds and swine. As it is a composite, if it were to come into contact with H5N1 - the avian flu virus which has caused so much concern - what are the chances of further mutation, thus enabling H5N1 to become a far more serious risk?
Neil Duffton, Cheltenham UK

Why are UK authorities eager to prescribe Tamiflu to children when doing so may well cause a significant risk of neuropsychiatric problem as was experienced in Japan? Why has the BBC failed to raise this as an issue that Tamiflu-use among children and teenagers may be dangerous in itself? There is scientific research showing a clear link between Tamiflu and serious side effects. So far the flu that has been seen in this country has been mild. Is it really worth the risk from Tamiflu to those who do not have the virus?
Jason Clifford, Borehamwood



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