The CDC is using Twitter to spread the word on how not to spread or get swine flu. The CDC has several Twitter accounts including @CDCemergency, which is posting new recommendations, bulletins on confirmed cases, and information on antiviral drugs and other ways to deal with or prevent the disease.
The Associated Press reports that there have been more than 1,600 reported cases and the number of suspected deaths has reached 149 in Mexico. At 1 p.m. Eastern Monday, the CDC reported 40 confirmed cases in the United States: California (7), Kansas (2), New York City (28), Ohio (1), and Texas (2). One person has been hospitalized, but there have been no deaths.
You can also search Twitter for "swine flu" where you'll find a lot of tweets, but use caution before taking advice from sources that you have no particular reason to trust.
And there is indeed plenty of discussion about the disease. Nielsen Online released data that shows that the volume of conversations about swine flu "have already exceeded nearly 10 to 1 those surrounding the salmonella and peanut butter scares from earlier this winter."
Of course all general news organizations also have information, including an excellent and relatively reassuring video from CBS Evening News' Dr. John LaPook.
From my own experience, using the Web to get health information can be quite useful but it can also lead to unnecessary panic. It's a great way to get general information, prevention tips, and information on how to handle a known condition, but be cautious when using it to try to diagnose yourself. When you do online research about symptoms, you are likely to find a wide variation of causes from the benign to deadly.
Yes, a cough can be a symptom of lung cancer, but it can also be from a common cold. If I do suspect something is wrong, I usually go to a doctor, not a URL. If you do go online for health information be sure it's a reputable site like WebMD, one of the state or federal government sites (including healthfinder.gov), or a site run by a respected health care provider.
By Larry Magid