What is H1N1 (swine) flu?
First seen in Mexico in April 2009, H1N1 is a new flu virus strain that spread throughout the world in a few months. Because this virus is new, most people will not have immunity, and, as a result, illness may be more widespread and the number of people with severe illness may be larger. That is why it is so important to get vaccinated when flu vaccines become available.
How do you catch H1N1 flu?
Human-to-human spread of H1N1 occurs mainly by people with the flu coughing or sneezing, similar to the spread of seasonal flu. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something (like books and doorknobs) with flu viruses on it and then touching theirmouth or nose.
How long can the flu virus remain alive on objects (like books and doorknobs)?
The flu virus can survive on environmental surfaces and infect a person for two–eight hours after being deposited on the surface.
What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?
The single best way to prevent getting the flu is to get vaccinated. You need two vaccines to be fully protected this year. The seasonal flu vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine are separate vaccinations; each protects against a different virus and is intended to be used along side the other. A seasonal vaccine is distributed routinely every year; the H1N1 vaccine is in development for fall 2009. Get both!
However, there are everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of germs:
- 1. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue, or the inside sleeve of your elbow, when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue away after you use it.
- 2. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner, especially after you cough or sneeze.
- 3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- 4. Try to avoid contact with sick people.
- 5. If you get sick with the flu, stay home from work, school and errands. Limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
- 6. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food
If you are diagnosed with the flu…
- Stay home for seven days after your symptoms begin or until you have been symptom-free (no fever) for 24 hours, whichever is longer.
- Follow your doctor’s orders and watch for emergency warning signs.
- Avoid close contact with others, especially people with chronic medical conditions (asthma, diabetes or heart disease), pregnant women, young children and infants.
- If available and tolerable, wear a facemask when sharing common spaces with other household members, especially those at high risk for flu complications.
- Get plenty of rest and drink clear fluids (water, broth, sports drinks or electrolyte beverages) to prevent dehydration.
- Cover coughs and sneezes.
- Clean hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub often, especially after using tissues, coughing or sneezing.
- Talk to your doctor about prescription antivirals.
Emergency warning signs for flu
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish or grayish skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
- Fever with a rash
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breat
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdome
- Sudden dizziness or confusio
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- If you or your child experiences any of these symptoms,
- seek urgent medical attention.
Can people catch H1N1 from eating pork?
H1N1 viruses are not transmitted by food. It is safe to eat properly handled and cooked pork and pork products.
What are the signs/symptoms of H1N1?
Similar to seasonal flu, H1N1 symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting. Most people have mild illness; however, more severe illness (pneumonia and respiratory failure) and deaths have been reported with H1N1. Like seasonal flu, people with underlying chronic medical conditions may have a greater risk of complications from H1N1 if they get infected with the virus.
How serious is H1N1 flu infection?
Like seasonal flu, H1N1 in humans can vary in severity from mild to severe.
Are there medicines to treat H1N1?
Yes. Antiviral medications TAMIFLU® and RELENZA® are sometimes used to treat flu, including H1N1, but most people don’t need them. However, people with underlying medical conditions might benefit from antiviral medications—prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaler) that fight against the flu by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in your body. If you get sick, antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They also may prevent serious flu complications. Antiviral drugs work best if started within two days of symptoms.
What is the difference between a vaccine and an antiviral?
Vaccines are usually given to prevent infections. When vaccinated, the body’s immune system makes antibodies that will fight off infection if exposure to the virus occurs. Flu vaccines are made from killed flu virus or weakened versions of the live virus that will not lead to disease. Antivirals can treat people already infected by a virus as well as prevent infection when given before or shortly after exposure and before illness occurs.
How long can an infected person spread H1N1 to others?
People infected with the flu may be able to infect others from one day before getting sick up to five–seven days after experiencing flu symptoms. For some people, especially children, people with weakened immune systems, and those infected with the new H1N1 virus, the period of time in which they are contagious can be longer.