Here, answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about swine flu.

What is swine flu?
Swine flu (also known as novel H1N1) is a new flu virus occurring in humans. It was first seen in this country in April 2009 and has been spreading worldwide. It's called swine flu because initially the virus seemed very similar to flu viruses that occur in North American swine. Researchers now know it's quite different.

What is phase 6 alert level? 
The World Health Organization has created a six-phased alert system to classify the status of swine flu worldwide. Right now the swine-flu alert is at phase 6, the highest alert level, to signify that the disease has entered into the pandemic stage. A pandemic simply means that an epidemic is taking place worldwide. This worldwide epidemic can cause either mild or severe symptoms.

Is there a vaccine?
There's no vaccine available to protect against swine flu right now, although one is in production and may be ready for distribution to the public this coming autumn.

Is it safe to travel?
Right now there are no government recommendations against travel to specific areas. Obviously, if you're sick, you should avoid traveling and spreading the virus to others.

Is pork safe?
Yes, as long as its properly handled and cooked. The swine flu virus is not spread via food.

What can I do?
One of the most important actions you can take to protect yourself against swine flu is to wash your hands frequently throughout the day. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, and stay away from crowds and sick people. Keep the surfaces of your home disinfected to avoid the spread of bacteria. If you're already sick, cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze, making sure to wash your hands afterward. Avoid contact with other people and don't share personal items with them.

Are some people more at risk?
Everyone is at risk of contracting the swine flu virus, but certain people are much more at risk of suffering serious complications. This includes pregnant women and anyone with preexisting medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, asthma, and anything that causes a suppressed immune system. Unlike in the case of regular seasonal flu, people 65 and older do not seem to be at increased risk of complications with swine flu. In fact, a significant percentage of complications of swine flu have occurred in people younger than 25.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization