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FONT SIZE EMAILPRINTRSSSHARE The flu, generally, is a much more serious illness than most people appreciate.

Even a "typical" flu season results in 36,000 American deaths each year, according to CDC statistics.As U.S.

officials warn that the number of swine flu cases in the country are likely to increase, there are a number of steps Americans can do to protect themselves and their children from this virus.

(Getty Images) The situation with swine flu is rapidly evolving, but here are some answers to questions on the top issues.

Get the latest from the U.S.

Centers on Disease Control and Prevention here: is the swine flu? The swine flu is a type of influenza virus usually found in pigs.

The most common version is H1N1, and the current virus causing concern is a new variation of an H1N1 virus.

Swine flu does not typically pass to humans directly, but such transmission can occur.

The current swine flu virus is concerning to health experts because it has shown the ability to pass from human to human.How big a threat is this new swine flu virus?RelatedU.S.

Govt Confirms 20 Swine Flu CasesObama Releases Antiflu Drug StockpileSwine Flu: What You Need to Know Scientists around the globe are working hard to determine the threat level of the current swine virus.

Right now, the virus is said to have "pandemic potential" because it is a new virus that can spread from person-to-person.

But if it turns out the virus does not spread easily among people, the threat level will go down.

Similarly, if it turns out the virus can spread easily among people, the threat becomes more serious and the virus is more likely to trigger a pandemic.What defines a flu pandemic? A flu pandemic occurs when a new virus emerges that can spread easily among people.

When a flu virus mutates in such a way that it forms a novel version, it means people typically have little-to-no protection because their immune systems have no experience fighting the virus in the past.

Flu viruses can spread quickly and potentially cause more severe illness when the population lacks immunity.

But all pandemics are not equally deadly.

Some kill millions more people than usual, while others are roughly on par with seasonal flu in terms of deaths.

It is not possible to predict a pandemic in advance so health officials keep a close watch on viruses that have "pandemic potential" -- new viruses that have shown at least some ability to transmit to humans.

The current H5N1 bird flu circulating in Asia is an example of a virus that has pandemic potential, but has not yet caused a pandemic.
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