The holy mate grail.

Panicked whispers can be heard throughout the land as the latest swine flu outbreak continues to seize headlines, the most disturbing news claiming that sharing mate with others could spread the disease. The horror!

However, there’s good news. Medical expert Norberto Debbag — the vice president of the Society of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, in fact — assures us sharing mate will not infect us. In an interview with TN, he even takes a sip from the reporter’s mate on air to prove his point. Well, I guess I just lost my one excuse to keep the entire liter for myself.

Just to warn you, he does say there is a small caveat.

“If I’m with a person who is visibly sick, has the flu and has a high fever, I’m not going to share the mate, but if I’m with a person who doesn’t have symptoms of the illness I can then share it without a problem. Most Argentines aren’t sick,” said Debbag in the video.

Photo via TN

Influenza A is a viral respiratory infection spread through droplets of fluid by means of coughing, sneezing and even talking. Symptoms include a fever over 38°C, cough, nasal congestion, throat pain and head and muscle ache. Children can also face symptoms of breathing issues, vomiting or diarrhea and irritability or drowsiness, according to the National Health Ministry.

Typically, Argentina faces peak flu season in June, but this May has been worse than usual. While the seasonal battle with influenza has come about eight weeks early this year, experts say Argentina won’t experience a crisis like the one in 2009, when H1N1 affected people worldwide. This year, unlike 2009, there is a vaccine to protect the population.

The most important step to ensure you stay safe is vaccination, according to Debbag. He said the vaccine is 85 percent effective at preventing the flu. At-risk individuals — which include babies between six and 24 months, pregnant women, people over 65 years old and people with chronic diseases and obesity — are especially urged to get vaccinated as they are more susceptible to falling ill.