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Officials caution on swine flu

While the World Health Organization has raised its alert on the spread of swine flu among humans, its impact on the United States has been limited so far, and health officials are asking citizens to take normal health precautions.

Mexico, where the number of deaths believed caused by swine flu rose by 50 percent on Monday to 152, is suspected to be the center of the outbreak, according to The Associated Press.

On Monday, the United States issued a travel advisory discouraging non-essential travel to Mexico. The World Health Organization raised its worldwide pandemic alert to Phase 4, which means it has confirmed person-to-person spread of a new influenza virus able to cause “community-level” outbreaks.

Fifty cases of swine flu have been confirmed in the United States, where there have not been any deaths and everyone infected has recovered. So far, there have not been any cases in the southeastern United States, although there have been six cases in Texas. Elsewhere around the world, there have been 92 confirmed cases but no deaths outside of Mexico.

Centers for Disease ControlWorld Health Organization

The Food and Drug Administration late Monday issued emergency guidance that allows certain antiviral drugs to be used in a broader range of the population in case mass dosing is needed to deal with an outbreak, The Associated Press reported. The flu medicines, such as Tamiflu and Relenza, have helped reduce the severity of symptoms associated with swine flu, a strain which mixes pig, bird and human flu viruses.

It has been determined that the swine flu is spreading from human to human, but it is not known how easily it can be spread. According to the Centers for Disease Control, people can keep the disease from spreading by taking everyday precautions such as frequent handwashing, covering up coughs and sneezes with a tissue or elbow, and staying away from work or school if not feeling well. Antibacterial hand gels can substitute if soap and water isn’t available. Avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth, as germs spread that way.

Swine Flu cannot spread through food, so it is safe to eat well-cooked pork, according to the World Health Organization.