Thursday, September 3, 2009
You may be getting tired of hearing about H1N1 or Swine influenza. There’s been so much talk/press for over six months now. And thankfully, it has not proved as yet to be as strong and dangerous as first thought. But, don’t let that make you take the risk too lightly. These next two weeks will show if the H1N1 version will make its way into our community.
Some important things to keep in mind are these:
- If you feel like you might be coming down with an upper respiratory or “influenza like illness” (ILI) stay away from others and monitor your temperature to see just what will develop. The Center for Disease Control calls this “self-isolate”.
- The novel H1N1 virus is spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing by people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something - such as a surface or object - with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.
- People infected with seasonal and novel H1N1 flu shed virus and may be able to infect others from one day before getting sick to five to seven days after. This can be longer in some people, especially children and people with weakened immune system.
- The symptoms of novel H1N1 flu virus in people include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. A significant number of people who have been infected with this virus also have reported diarrhea and vomiting.
- If your roommate or family member has a flu like illness, you are probably exposed to the flu. Watch for the symptoms, practice good hygiene and help them as needed.
If you do not have temperatures over 100 F and your symptoms do not accelerate over the next 3-5 days, you can assume it’s a viral cold and go back to your normal schedule.
If you do continue to have temperature, chills & aches, dry cough symptoms, GO TO THE DOCTOR* and be screened for influenza. If you see the doctor within the 1st 48 hours of illness, you will get the best results from the antiviral prescription which can reduce the intensity and length of the total illness.
Illness with the new H1N1 virus has ranged from mild to severe. While most people who have been sick have recovered without needing medical treatment, hospitalizations and deaths from infection with this virus have occurred. The highest incidence of severe complications occurs in ages 3-25 years.
WASH YOUR HANDS. Wash your hands frequently and carry hand sanitizer. Use it in between hand washings and after using shared equipment or computers.
GET A FLU SHOT. Get a seasonal flu shot as soon as they are available this fall. Call your county health department for locations.
Q. What is the difference between the H1N1 virus and "swine flu?"
A. Originally, laboratory tests showed that many of the genes in novel H1N1 virus were similar to influenza viruses that occur in pigs in North America, hence, the term "swine flu". Subsequent study has shown that the H1N1 is a new virus and is very different from viruses that normally circulate in pigs in North America. It has two genes from flu viruses that normally circulate in pigs in Europe and Asia and bird genes and human genes. It has two genes from flu viruses that normally circulate in pigs in Europe and Asia and bird (avian) genes and human genes. Scientists call this a "quadruple reassortant" virus.
Q. What is the difference between novel H1N1 and seasonal flu?
A. Novel H1N1 is a new virus that hasn't been seen before. Seasonal flu viruses have been known to be circulating in humans over time.
Q. What should I do to prevent contracting the H1N1 virus?
A. Everyone should practice good hand hygiene. You should wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizer in between hand washings after touching equipment like computers or other areas. In addition, practice good respiratory hygiene. Please don't sneeze or cough on other people or on your hands. Use tissues and dispose of them or cough in your sleeve, turning away from people you are near.
Q. Will getting a seasonal flu shot protect me against H1N1?
A. A seasonal flu shot will help protect you against various seasonal influenza viruses. Because H1N1 is new and seasonal flu vaccines were already produced, a seasonal flu shot will not protect you against H1N1.
Q. What are the symptoms of the H1N1 virus? How does it differ from other, more common flu strains?
A. The symptoms of H1N1 flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal flu and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with H1N1 flu have also reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. To date, the H1N1 virus has presented with less severe symptoms than seasonal flu from prior years.
Q. What is the best way to keep from spreading the virus through coughing or sneezing?
A. If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) Keep away from others as much as possible. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Put your used tissue in the waste basket. Then, clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or sneeze.
Q. If I have a family member at home who is sick with novel H1N1 flu, should I go to work?
A. Students/Employees who are well but who have an ill family member at home with novel H1N1 flu can go to work as usual. These employees should monitor their health every day, and take everyday precautions including washing their hands often with soap and water, especially after they cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.* If they become ill, they should notify their faculty/supervisor and stay home.
Mary Ann Guinn