My employer is the state department of health. We have been preparing for public health emergencies such as an influenza pandemic for many years. Some key points to remember include: You can't get this influenza by eating pork products. Washing your hands and using hand sanitizers can help you avoid getting sick. And if you are feeling ill, running a fever, coughing or achy, stay home away from others and call your doctor. We have been calling it H1N1 Novel Influenza rather than swine flu in order to take the heat off of pigs. This could be devastating for the pork industry.
I am very proud of my colleagues at the health department. In the past they have cracked many stubborn cases of foodborne illness, tracing the origins to peanuts and serrano peppers. They are a world class group of scientists and professionals who take their jobs very seriously and they work very hard to protect the health not only of this state but of this country.
This could turn into a serious situation. Around 36,000 people die from influenza every year in this country. With a flu pandemic that number could skyrocket. In 1918 hundreds of thousands of people perished from the Spanish flu. You can read more about it here in Wikipedia. The current strain is of the same subtype, H1N1, as the 1918 outbreak, but it is a strain that has never been seen before and that is why it has been given special attention.
It is important to be cautious yet remain vigilant about this outbreak. There is valuable information on the Centers for Disease Control's website.