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It's now been reported that a vast amount of people have been infected with swine flu or H1N1 around the world. The projected infection rate in the coming year is only expected to rise significantly. While it's a cause for concern, there's nothing about H1N1 flu that leads medical experts to think it's acquired in vastly different ways from more common flu. Therefore, keeping things in perspective and using similar protective measures which are effective against other flu strains is in order.

Medical experts tell us it's important not to panic or overact to the point of hysteria. It's something to remember, as more and more people talk about risks of getting H1N1. Though vaccines are on the way, and may ultimately be the most secure way of guaranteeing you or loved ones won't get infected, some basic precautions can be followed which will help before vaccinations can be administered, or in the cases of people who can't be vaccinated.

Avoiding Crowds

This may be impossible for many of us to implement on a daily basis, but if you don't have to be around lots of people in public areas, avoid crowds when you can. When you are in crowds, try to avoid physical contact as much as possible and try not to breathe too closely near others. Some people have resorted to the extremes of wearing surgical masks, and while this may seem a bit overdoing it, for the weak, elderly or more at risk, it's something to consider.

Keep Hands Clean

This is a primary way of decreasing the risk of getting colds or flu. Wash hands frequently, and when you can't get to a sink, use a hand sanitizer. These little bottles of cleanser are basically alcohol in a gel base. Pharmacies like CVS, Duane Reade or Rite Aid sell small bottles for as little as two dollars. They are handy for just keeping your hands clean for personal hygiene in all sorts of situations, but in this predicted swine flu outbreak, these hand sanitizers may just keep you and your family from getting sick.

Public Restrooms

Keeping oneself aware of the dirty dangers of public facilities is good in any time, however with flu season and with H1N1 dangers, it's more important than ever. It's important to keep hands clean and avoid placing your hands in your mouth to eat or after shaking someone's hands. Wash hands thoroughly after using public restrooms, before eating and as another precaution, use hand sanitizers if you have recently touched things in stores or other public places.

Remember, this is common sense and overall hygienic advice. It's not meant to guarantee prevention of any illness, including H1N1 swine flu. However, by keeping oneself away from large public places, ensuring one's hands are clean and avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth after you've been in large public places where chances of exposure are strong, you can help decrease your risk of getting flu – including H1N1.



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