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Facts About...

H1N1 INFLUENZA


What is it?

H1N1 influenza is a respiratory disease caused by type A influenza viruses. It is a variant of seasonal influenza that contains bits of viruses from birds, pigs, and humans. It causes symptoms similar to those of the seasonal flu.

How is it spread?

Person to person spread of the H1N1 virus occurs by coughing and sneezing. Coughs and sneezes release the germs into the air where they can be breathed in by others. Germs can also rest on hard surfaces like counters and doorknobs, where they can be picked up on hands and enter the body when someone touches their mouth, eyes or nose.

What do I look for?

Persons infected with the H1N1 influenza will have symptoms of illness similar to seasonal influenza. Symptoms, ranging from mild to severe, can include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and lack of appetite. Some people may have diarrhea and vomiting although these symptoms are more common in children. Young children may not experience a fever.

How is it treated?

There are medications called antiviral drugs that can be started within 24 to 48 hours of symptoms for early treatment of infection with H1N1 influenza. Mild illness that appears to be going away on its own does not require medication. Antibiotics have no effect against a viral illness. If you get the flu, you should stay home and increase the amount of fluids you drink (e.g., water, juice, soups) and rest until you recover. Aches and fever can be treated with over the counter medication such as acetaminophen. Children should not be given acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) because of the risk of Reye’s Syndrome.

Who’s Most at Risk for Complications?

Individuals under 65 years with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes and chronic lung or heart disease, cancer, immune suppression, as well as pregnant women, are at a higher risk of complications. Young children may also be at higher risk. If you are at risk for complications and you experience flu-like symptoms contact your health care provider.

How can I protect myself?

  • H1N1 is best prevented by vaccination. The seasonal flu vaccine contains the H1N1 strain therefore it can help protect you against H1N1 influenza.
  • Receive annual influenza vaccinations and speak to your health care provider about your need for other vaccines.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or use hand sanitizer when hands are not visibly dirty.
  • Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing and encourage others to do the same.
  • Wash your hands after handling nose and throat discharges (i.e., after disposal of facial tissues containing nose and throat discharges).
  • Do not share water bottles, straws, eating utensils, cigarettes, toothbrushes, toys or anything else that has been in contact with saliva, nose or throat secretions.
  • If you are ill, stay at home and isolate yourself from others.

August 8, 2011