H1N1 (Swine Flu) Facts and Tips
What is H1N1?
H1N1 is a highly contageous strain of the influenza virus. It got the nickname of "Swine Flu" because it is similar to a strain of influenza commonly found in pigs. However, the H1N1 did not come from contact with infected pigs. The first cases of H1N1 in America were diagnosed in April 2009. Since then, the H1N1 virus has behaved like other strains of seasonal flu virus, with minimal infection rates. However, in January 2014, a resurgence of the virus has been seen, with people in all areas of the US affected.
How is H1N1 spread?
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) the most common ways H1N1 is spread are person-to-person contact, and contact with an object carrying the virus (such as a door handle, telehpone, hand rail etc). People who are infected are contagious up to 24 hours before symptoms appear, and up to 7 days after symptoms begin. Unlike seasonal flu viruses, the H1N1 doesn't change. So if you become infected, your body will produce antibodies that will protect you from getting H1N1 again.
What are the symptoms and how are they different from a seasonal flu?
- Fever: H1N1 usually presents with a high fever (101° or higher). A low grade fever is common in a seasonal flu, and is unlikely with a common cold.
- Cough: A persistent, non-productive cough (produces no mucus) is common in H1N1 infections. A dry, hacking cough can occur with a seasonal flu. A productive cough with mucus is common with a cold.
- Body Aches: Severe body aches are usually present in H1N1 infections. Mild to moderate body aches are common in seasonal flu and colds.
- Nasal Congestion: Stuffy or runny nose is extremely rare in cases of H1N1. Mild to moderate congestion is common in colds. Moderate to severe congestion is usually present in the seasonal flu.
- Sore Throat: Sore throat is rarely present in H1N1 infection, and is usually due to coughing. Sore throat is more common in seasonal flu and colds and can be mild to moderate.
- Headache: Severe headache is usally present with H1N1. Mild headaches are common for seasonal flu. Headaches are uncommon for colds.
- Chest Congestion: Severe chest pressure and/or shortness of breath are generally present in H1N1. Mild to moderate chest discomfort is expected in seasonal flu, and is rare in common colds.
- Fatigue: Fatigue is usually moderate to severe in H1N1 infections, and can last for up to 7 days. Modereate fatigue (lasting 1-3 days) is common in seasonal flu. Mild fatigue is occasionally present in colds.
- Vomitting and Diarrhea: Nausea, vommiting and diarrhea can be present in H1N1. Gastric distress is not usually found with a seasonal flu or cold.
- Symptom Onset and Duration: H1N1 is known for its rapid onset of symptoms (within 3-6 hours) and usually lasts for a week or more. The seasonal flu and common cold symptoms have a gradual onset and can last a 1-5 days.
- Here are some simple steps to reduce your exposure to H1N1 and other viruses:
- WASH YOUR HANDS - This is the best and easiest way to stop the spread of germs! Soap and warm water will kill most viruses. If you can't wash your hands often, alcohol-based hand sanitizers will work also.
- Disinfect Common Surfaces - The H1N1 virus can live on surfaces for hours. Use disinfecting wipes on common surfaces like countertops or door handles to kill the virus.
- Avoid Close Contact - Attempt to stay at least 6 feet away from anyone with flu symptoms. Wearing a particulate respirator when in large crowds can be helpful.
- Avoid Touching Your Face - Germs on your hands can enter your system through contact with your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Cover Your Mouth - Use a tissue to cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough. If you don't have a tissue, cough into your elbow or sleeve to avoid spreading germs with your hands
- Stay Home When Sick - Persons infected with H1N1 can be contagious for over a week after symptoms appear. People exhibiting flu-like symptoms should not return to work or school until fever has been gone for 24 hours without medicine.