H1N1 flu & you

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What is H1N1 (swine flu)?

H1N1 (referred to as “swine flu” early on) is an influenza virus causing illness in people. This virus was first detected in humans in April 2009 in the United States. This virus is spreading from person-to-person, probably in much the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread.

This virus was originally referred to as “swine flu” because laboratory testing showed that many of the genes in this new virus were very similar to influenza viruses that normally occur in pigs in North America. But further study has shown that this virus is very different from what normally circulates in North American pigs. It has two genes from flu viruses that normally circulate in pigs in Europe and Asia and avian genes and human genes.

Studies have shown that influenza virus can survive on environmental surfaces and can infect a person for up to two to eight hours after being deposited on the surface.

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Do pigs carry this virus and can I catch this virus from a pig or eating pork?

At this time, there is no evidence that swine in the United States are infected with this new virus. However, there are flu viruses that commonly cause outbreaks of illness in pigs. Most of the time, these viruses do not infect people, but influenza viruses can spread back and forth between pigs and people. You can not contract this strain of flu from eating pork since the disease is not spread by food. You cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products are safe.

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How does this H1N1 virus spread?

Spread of this H1N1 virus is thought to be happening in the same way that seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing by people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

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What are the signs and symptoms of this virus in people?

The symptoms of the H1N1 virus in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. A significant number of people who have been infected with this virus also have reported diarrhea and vomiting. Also, like seasonal flu, severe illnesses and death has occurred as a result of illness associated with this virus.

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What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?

There is vaccine being tested right now to protect against this H1N1 virus. There are common behaviors that can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza. Take these steps to protect your health:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick, stay home for at least 24 hours after a fever of 100 degrees F or higher resolves without having taken medications such as Tylenol or ibuprofen.

Other important actions that you can take include:

  • Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and taking other social distancing measures.
  • Be prepared in case you get sick and need to stay home for 24 hours after your fever resolves (without medication); a supply of over-the-counter medicines, alcohol-based hand rubs, tissues and other related items might could be useful and help avoid the need to make trips out in public while you are sick and contagious.

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What do I do if I have any symptoms of the flu?

It is important to contact your health care provider if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms and a fever. These symptoms include: cough, malaise, nausea, body aches, cough, headache and fever.

Call Baird Health and Counseling if you are experiencing these symptoms or have concerns. The staff is trained to evaluate your symptoms and determine if you need further evaluation. Their office is open Monday - Friday 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Please call (603) 526-3621 for information or to make an appointment.

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Are there medicines to treat infection with this virus?

Yes. CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir or zanamivir for the treatment and/or prevention of infection with these new influenza A (H1N1) viruses. Antiviral drugs are 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 may also prevent serious flu complications. During the current outbreak, the priority use for influenza antiviral drugs during is to treat severe influenza illness.

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How long can an infected person spread this virus to others?

At the current time, CDC believes that this virus has the same properties in terms of spread as seasonal flu viruses. With seasonal flu, studies have shown that people may be contagious from one day before they develop symptoms to up to seven days after they get sick.

Children, especially younger children, might potentially be contagious for longer periods. CDC is studying the virus and its capabilities to try to learn more and will provide more information as it becomes available.

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What surfaces are most likely to be sources of contamination?

Germs can be spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth. Droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air. Germs can be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets from another person on a surface like a desk, telephone for example, and then touches their own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands.

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What is the best way to keep from spreading the virus through coughing or sneezing?

If you are sick, limit your contact with other people as much as possible. Do not go to work or school for at least 24 hours after your symptoms go away. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Put your used tissue in the waste basket. Cover your cough or sneeze if you do not have a tissue. Then, clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or sneeze.

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What is the best technique for washing my hands to avoid getting the flu?

Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. Wash with soap and water or clean with alcohol-based hand cleaner. We recommend that when you wash your hands – with soap and warm water – that you wash for 15 to 20 seconds. When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used. You can find them in most supermarkets and drugstores. If using gel, rub your hands until the gel is dry. The gel doesn't need water to work; the alcohol in it kills the germs on your hands.

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What is CDC doing in response to the outbreak?

CDC has implemented its emergency response. The agency's goals are to reduce transmission and illness severity, and provide information to help health care providers, public health officials and the public address the challenges posed by the new virus. CDC continues to issue new interim guidance for clinicians and public health professionals. In addition, CDC's Division of the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) continues to send antiviral drugs, personal protective equipment, and respiratory protection devices to all 50 states and U.S. territories to help them respond to the outbreak.

  • Studies of health care workers who were exposed to patients infected with the virus to see if they became infected;
  • Studies of households and other contacts of people who were confirmed to have been infected to see if they became infected;
  • Study of a public high school where three confirmed human cases of influenza A (H1N1) of swine origin occurred to see if anyone became infected and how much contact they had with a confirmed case; and
  • Study to see how long a person with the virus infection sheds the virus.
  • Links to non-federal organizations are provided solely as a service to our users. These links do not constitute an endorsement of these organizations or their programs by CDC or the federal government, and none should be inferred. CDC is not responsible for the content of the individual organization Web pages found at these links.

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How long can influenza virus remain viable on objects (such as books and doorknobs)?

Studies have shown that influenza virus can survive on environmental surfaces and can infect a person for up to 2-8 hours after being deposited on the surface.

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What kills influenza virus?

Influenza virus is destroyed by heat (167-212°F [75-100°C]). In addition, several chemical germicides, including chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, detergents (soap), iodophors (iodine-based antiseptics), and alcohols are effective against human influenza viruses if used in proper concentration for a sufficient length of time. For example, wipes or gels with alcohol in them can be used to clean hands. The gels should be rubbed into hands until they are dry.

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*Note: Much of the information in this document is based on studies and past experience with seasonal (human) influenza. CDC believes the information applies to this H1N1 (swine) viruses as well, but studies on this virus are ongoing to learn more about its characteristics. This document will be updated as new information becomes available.

Additional Information & Links:

New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (NHDHHS)
http://www.dhhs.state.nh.us/DHHS/DHHS_SITE/swineflu.htm

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/

World Health Organization (WHO)
http://www.who.int/csr/disease/swineflu/en/index.html