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Dr Manny's Notes

H1N1 Q&A: Dr. Manny Responds to Viewer E-mails

I've been getting many e-mails over the past couple of days concerning swine flu. So I've decided to answer a few of them here.

Dear Dr. Manny, If I had the swine flu in 1976 after I received the swine flu vaccine as a college student, do I have any anti-bodies that may help ward off this version of the virus? -Amy Gorman Lutherville, MD

Probably not. This current swine flu's genetic makeup is different from the swine flu from the '70s, and therefore the vaccination won't be protective for you. But the silver lining is that this current swine flu is less lethal, and there may components in it that more Americans have been exposed to. So you may have a greater chance of being protected already which can minimize the symptoms.

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Dear Dr. Manny, We have friends who have returned from a trip to Mexico City two weeks ago. How long would it take for swine flu symptoms to show up if they were infected? Thank you for your time, -Alan

The typical incubation time for a virus is 48-72 hours. So if your friends have been back for two weeks, and don't have any symptoms, you can feel confident that they are safe.

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Dr. Manny, My wife and I are very concerned of the complications swine flu/treatment would pose to her pregnancy. Are the approved drugs for treatment approved for use during pregnancy? Thanks, Ben Demaline Jacksonville, FL

Yes, all of the current flu treatments can be given to pregnant women. As a matter of fact, we tend to be more aggressive in treating the flu in expectant mothers because pregnancy can make flu symptoms worse and put the patient at higher risk. That's why it's recommended that all pregnant women get flu shots annually.

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Dr. Manny, I will be flying to Las Vegas next week with a two-hour layover in Atlanta. I had a liver transplant five years ago and have done really well. Do you think that I should wear a mask at the airport and on the plane? I am very concerned about the large crowds and would like your opinion. Thank you for any answer! G. Savage

As a liver transplant recipient you are probably taking immunosuppressant therapy drugs and therefore you do have to take precautions to avoid exposure to the swine flu a• or any kind of flu. Even though I'm not a big advocate of wearing masks, I do feel that you should wear one. But remember: Not all facial masks are created equal, so get one that has been proven to protect against viruses. There are many supply stores that carry this specific mask for viruses. Also, try to wipe down all the surfaces on your airplane seat with antibacterial wipes. Be sure to wash your hands before, during and after the trip. And avoid any contact with anyone who you suspect might be sick. I know that this is a big stretch, but until we know exactly the extent of the spread, in your particular case, I would be extra cautious. I hope that this doesn't ruin your vacation!

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Dr. Manny, I have no choice but to commute using public transportation everyday. How should I take precautions against the swine flu? Thanks, -Paul

If you can avoid public transportation, especially crowded subway cars, then do it. But if you can't here's what you can do:

  • If you are a healthy individual you can just use antibacterial products, including wipes and gels, chronically throughout your trip.
  • Avoid contact with people who are coughing or appear sick. If they are in your car, move to another one.
  • As soon as you get home or to the office wash your hands, wipe down your cell phone, iPod or any device that you used during your trip.
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Dear Dr. Manny, I'm a chronic nail biter and I'm really concerned about the swine flu. What should I do? Best, -Mel

First and foremost - wash your hands. Your hands are the most common tool for picking up germs and viruses in general. So if you are a nail biter, this would be the perfect incentive for you to quit. Also, biting your nails can make you ingest things other than viruses that you don't want to have in your body.