Why is this influenza virus called the swine flu? Its called swine flu because one of the proteins on the surface of the virus is most similar to those found on viruses that affect pigs. However this one is infecting people, not pigs. You can not get this flu from eating pork. It is spread from one person to another. The symptoms include high fever, aches, coughing and congestion.
There are anti-viral drugs like Tamiflu and Relenza that can combat this virus, and they are most effective if you start treatment early. So if you develop symptoms you need to get treated as soon as possible, and avoid contact with other people.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), twenty cases have been reported in the US including people from California, New York, and Ohio. Only one person was sick enough to be hospitalized. Canada has also recently reported a case. No one in the US has died of the disease as of yet, but over 80 people in Mexico have died.
One of the best ways to avoid infection is to frequently wash your hands. If you are sick, don't go to work, or come to school!
You have also probably heard the word "pandemic" in the news reports about this virus. The word pandemic comes from the Greek words for "all people", and is a disease that spreads across a large area, or even the world.
There are alot of blogs, and news organizations covering this right now. Here are a few links you can check for more information.
Here is the CDC's website on swine flu. It will be updated at least once a day.
Tara Smith is a Professor of Epidemiology and blogs about causes and evolution of diseases on her blog Aetiology
The editors of Effect Measure are public health scientists.