Gearing up for the start of a new school year can mean preparing to keep your health in check as well, but with swine flu worries continuing to permeate across the country, how can you protect yourself this fall?

Best Prevention Practices

As with the traditional flu, basic recommendations are to wash your hands often with soap and water or use hand sanitizer, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

What About a Vaccine?

But the burning question as the flu season draws near is whether a vaccine will be available.

The first doses of the swine flu vaccine should be ready by mid-October, The Wall Street Journal reports.  That’s just after the start of the traditional flu season. 

But the vaccine may only be given to those with the highest need first, like the sick, elderly, children and health care workers.  As new batches of the vaccine are made, they’ll be made more widely available, but it may not be until later in the season.

The swine flu shot won't protect you against seasonal flu, however, and the seasonal flu shot won't protect you against swine flu, so you’ll need both shots, the Journal notes.  Clinical trials are currently being conducted to test the vaccine’s safety, but experts believe it will be safe since it’s similar to the traditional flu vaccine.

Spotting Swine Flu

Basic swine flu symptoms aren’t much different from those of the regular seasonal flu which causes a fever, body aches, sore throat and a runny nose.  But swine flu can also cause stomach problems, vomiting and diarrhea, which are rare in adults with the common flu.

It’s transmitted by exposure to a sick and sneezing or coughing human or animal, but not by eating pork, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But there’s another major difference between the swine flu and the common flu: young people are getting hit with the swine flu, while the elderly, who usually make up a large majority of annual deaths from the common flu virus, have not been affected as much, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Antivirals are not Guranteed

If you’ve been diagnosed with the flu, whichever version it is, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral drug like Tamiflu or Relenza which can reduce the duration of and severity of flu symptoms.  But if you’re deemed healthy enough to recover on your own, you may not get a prescription at all, since health officials worry about drug-resistant strain of swine flu developing.

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