Get Ready Mailbag: Swine flu

Welcome to another installment of the Get Ready Mailbag, when we take time to answer questions sent our way by readers like you. Have a question you want answered? Send an e-mail to

Q. I read that CDC has decided that schools don't have to close anymore for swine flu. Why? And does that mean swine flu is over?

A. The recent change in guidance for schools from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a result of the latest information on the H1N1 flu outbreak, which has also been called "swine flu." When the virus first appeared in the United States, outbreaks were frequently starting in schools. Also, early information from Mexico was that the virus was affecting previously healthy young adults and often resulting in respiratory failure and death.

Based on this initial information, CDC recommended that schools close when a student was infected as a way to reduce spread of a potentially severe disease. However, there are now more than 1,000 cases in 44 states, making school closure less effective. Additionally, most U.S. cases have not been any more severe than seasonal influenza. As a result, CDC has stopped recommending school closure and instead focuses on early identification of ill students and staff, staying home when sick, and good cough and hand hygiene.

Although this is good news, it's too early to say with certainty that the worst is over. Flu viruses are notoriously unstable and can change at any time to become either more harmless or more lethal. There is also a concern that this current outbreak will subside with warmer weather, only to come back in the fall and winter. Health officials are taking precautions to keep people safe while they continue to learn more.

If you have more questions about H1N1 flu, check out these FAQs from APHA.

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