Governments around the world are striving to contain a new flu virus suspected of killing more than 100 people in Mexico. Experts warn swine flu could spark a global pandemic. BBC News online put a number of your questions to flu expert Maureen Baker, Head of Pandemic Planning at the Royal College of General Practitioners. QUESTIONS AND ANSWERSMy friend has recently got back from Mexico and has been feeling ill and now I have developed what seems like a normal cold. I have had if for about four days and there is no sign of getting better. I haven't been to the doctor. What do you adviseSarah Woollard, Lincolnshire, UKDr Baker:I think if you have symptoms of a cold - and have had these for four days - then this is almost certainly a normal cold. For more detailed advice (or if your friend wants further information) it might help to contact NHS Direct. What is the incubation time of swine flu from point of exposureMrs Catherine Edwards, Cardiff, UKDr Baker:I don't believe we know enough yet about this illness to be able to say. I would expect this sort of information to become available over the next few days. Is the basic flu jab sufficient to protect against this virusJanice Ward, Banbury, UKDr Baker:No - so far as we know at present. When flu symptoms arise we are told not to bother the doctor, stay at home, keep warm and drink water. Good advice usually but in this case, how do you know when it is necessary to contact the doctorLesley Buckley, Ely, UKDr Baker:It is good advice. However people with be able to get more information from NHS Direct. If swine flu develops into a pandemic, and reaches the UK, then the public will receive information on leaflets, and from television, that will advise on what to look out for, in terms of worsening symptoms, that should prompt seeking help. How does 'flu' actually 'kill' someone How long does it take from becoming infected with virus to death, if that is the outcomeGraham Munn, Stevenage, UKDr Baker:Flu is an unpleasant illness but one that normally leads to complete recovery within a week or so for most people. The danger from flu is mainly from complications, especially pneumonia. If people who have flu become much worse, especially if they start to have breathing difficulties, pneumonia should be suspected. If pneumonia develops, that probably needs to be treated in hospital with antiviral and/or antibiotics. Some patients with pneumonia can deteriorate very quickly, others may have an illness over a number of days or even weeks. The swine flu is from Mexico but how did it come about and is it going to spread in the UKSana Mir, Birmingham, UKDr Baker:Presumably a new strain of flu developed in pigs and then passed to humans (probably people who work with, or live in close proximity to, pigs). At present, we don't know if it will spread to the UK but the authorities are closely monitoring the situation. Is there a risk that if the emerging swine flu H1N1 virus comes into contact with the established bird flu H5N1 virus that the two could mix and cause an even bigger pandemic riskSarah, Coventry, UKDr Baker:Any new strain of flu poses a risk of developing into one that can quickly spread and turn into a pandemic. Even if these two strains were to meet and lead to evolution of another new virus, I would have thought that would take some time and were it to happen would probably be neither more or less dangerous in itself than any new strain of flu. We have booked a holiday to Cancun Mexico in August we have got young children, should we cancel and go elsewhereMyroulla Christoforou, London, UKDr Baker:Hopefully by then the outbreak will have passed, however travel advice is regularly updated on the Foreign Office website. Let's hope you are able to go and have a lovely holiday! We are a GP surgery with over 8,000 patients. We are obviously awaiting guidance from the Dept of Health. In our pandemic flu plan we have been advised by our local PCT to provide 8 masks a day per member of staff - could you clarify the projected usage of a mask - ie: should they be treated like surgical gloves and disposed of after one useCaroline Dray, Ramsgate, UKDr Baker:Masks become ineffective when they become damp or after a few hours. There has been a lot of debate on the use of facemasks and some authorities say that, in the community, the most effective use is to give to patients who may have symptoms when they present in the surgery - that should help reduce the infectivity of that patient to surgery staff and other patients. I expect the Department of Health will issue guidance on use of facemasks if we move into a pandemic phase. I have no spleen and I'm concerned that I will find it hard to fight the flu virus if contracted. Is there anything I can do to pre-prepare myselfStella Lawrence, Norfolk, UKDr Baker:You should be very careful in having meticulous hand hygiene, washing your hands frequently with soap and water or using alcohol hand rubs. Should this become a pandemic strain, some patients (and people who have had splenectomies may be in this group) may be directed to take a course of antibiotics if they develop flu symptoms. If this course of action is recommended, then GPs will receive guidance and arrangements will be made for patients for whom such treatment is recommended. This article is from the BBC News website. © British Broadcasting Corporation, The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.


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