1. The symptoms are like regular flu. You've got it if you've got a fever.
"Ten per cent of our patients had no fever when admitted," says intensive care specialist Anand Kumar of the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. Worryingly, this message has not got through to all doctors, health agencies or those creating online diagnostic aids. In many cases, the official line remains: if you don't have fever, you don't have flu.2. This is just mild flu. The death rates are even lower than for normal flu.
These numbers should not be compared directly. The 36,000 figure comes from epidemiological studies… Such studies reveal a bulge in deaths during and just after the flu season every year, mainly among the elderly. Many are clearly due to flu and other lung infections that can follow it, but more than half are not obviously connected, because flu often kills in indirect ways, by triggering heart attacks or strokes, for instance.3. You're safe as long as you're healthy. Only sick, weak people get really ill.
By contrast, the deaths attributed to swine flu are those directly caused by respiratory infection with the pandemic virus. Indirect deaths - the majority of the 36,000 figure for regular flu - are not being counted. The full death toll for 2009 H1N1 flu will not be known for a while, if ever.
Most of the children who have died of swine flu were perfectly healthy beforehand, and many of the adult victims also had no underlying conditions.4. I'll be OK if I just eat organic food, take vitamins, wear a mask, wash my hands a lot and drink plenty of fluids.
Up to six times as many people as normal - a third or more of the population - are expected to get 2009 flu, because few people have any effective antibody protection against the virus… So if you have the right genes and you have had seasonal H1N1, you are less likely to get the severe form of flu. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to tell.
Keeping healthy may make a mild case of flu even milder. And stopping smoking, losing excess weight and avoiding binge drinking will reduce your chances of getting the severe form of pandemic flu. But beyond this, little of the advice proliferating on the internet is backed by any evidence.5. It's OK now because we have a vaccine. In fact, we have several.
The pandemic vaccine should make you and your family safe from this virus, but you may not get it for months, if you can get it at all. Some countries, including the US and the UK, have ordered enough to vaccinate everyone and immunisation began this month. But batches will arrive slowly, over several months, because the vaccine virus grew slowly and because we have few vaccine factories.6. The vaccine isn't safe. Why take the risk to prevent mild flu?
The 1976 vaccine caused around 10 cases per million vaccinated. Even ordinary flu vaccines, however, are thought to cause one extra case of Guillain-Barré per million, in addition to the 10 to 20 per million who get Guillain-Barré some other way every year.7. This virus won't get deadlier - that isn't in a germ's interests.
Does this mean it is safer not getting vaccinated? Absolutely not. First, there is the risk of swine flu killing you. Second, what few people know is that flu itself is far more likely to cause Guillain-Barré than any flu vaccine
We can also say that once most people have been infected by swine flu and become immune, a variant that can beat that immunity will replace the current strain. Will that variant be milder or nastier? An ordinary flu virus that suddenly became globally dominant in 2004 was more virulent than the strain it evolved from - though it isn't clear whether being nastier is what gave it the edge, says Jeffery Taubenberger of the US National Institutes of Health.8. Once this pandemic is over we'll be safe for another few decades.
The next pandemic could be in 2059 - or next year. There is no obvious pattern to flu pandemics: the ones we know about were in 1580, 1729, 1781, 1830, 1847, 1889, 1918, 1957, 1968 and 2009. But the way this one emerged tells us we may be in for more soon.