What is it?
A new strain of influenza known as ‘Swine flu’ is responsible for an outbreak that is thought to have started in Mexico, Central America. Since March 2009, many people have reported suffering from flu-like symptoms in various parts of Mexico.
What causes it?
When other cases were identified in North America, researchers recognised it as a new strain of the H1N1 influenza virus that has changed its properties to act differently from other previous strains. Current flu vaccines are not likely to protect people against the Mexican strain because it is entirely new.
How does it spread?
The virus spreads from person to person via infectious droplets in the air that are breathed out and inhaled. Some people that have recently visited Mexico have caught the disease and spread it on to others when they have returned to their own countries.
Who has been affected?
Follow a map of Swine flu cases (updated daily):
Risk of pandemic?
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that there is still a risk of the virus becoming pandemic.
How can you reduce your risk of getting it?
People can try to reduce their risk of catching the virus by washing their hands with soap and water more frequently than normal. In addition people with obvious signs of illness like cough and fever should not be approached and in some cases face masks can be helpful.
Where did the virus come from?
The search for the source of the outbreak continues. The Mexican government says that the possibility that the virus came from outside the country cannot be ruled out.