NEW YORK, April 28 — How dangerous is the sudden outbreak of swine flu? What makes this virus different from previous flu viruses? Pam Belluck, a science reporter at New York Times, is answering readers’ questions about swine flu and its implications for health.

Q: I had a swine flu shot in 1976 while I was five months pregnant because President Gerald Ford decided that was a good thing (seven pigs in New Jersey had the swine flu). Would this 1976 swine flu shot immunize me and my 32-year-old son from the swine flu now?

— Marilyn Osborne Birmingham, Ala.

A: Dr. Scott P. Layne, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Public Health, said that the vaccine is “probably too far removed to be of much help.” He added, “There may be some mild lingering benefit, but I wouldn’t count on it. It’s certainly not going to prevent against infection.”

Q: What is the mode of human-to-human transmission of the swine flu virus? How long does the virus live outside the human host – i.e., on objects (like door handles) and in the air (for instance, on dust particles)?

— Andy Beckerman Bennington, Vt.

A: The swine flu virus is transmitted the same way other flu viruses are spread, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The most common method of transmission is airborne – being in fairly close proximity to an infected person who is coughing or sneezing. It is also possible to become infected by touching a surface with a flu virus on it and then touching one’s mouth or nose, which is why experts advise people to wash their hands frequently and avoid touching their face.

How long a virus can live on an object like a door handle or in the air has a lot to do with temperature, humidity and sunlight, said Dr. Layne of the UCLA School of Public Health. The hotter it is and the more the virus is exposed to sunlight, the shorter it is likely to live, he said. Humidity can have variable effects, sometimes prolonging and sometimes shortening the life of a virus. The CDC says some viruses and bacteria can live two hours or longer on cafeteria tables, doorknobs, desks and other surfaces.

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