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Health News at St. Andrews
 

 H1N1 (Swine Flu) Facts

     

 

What is swine flu? Swine influenza is a common respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can and do happen. Swine flu viruses have been reported to spread from person to person.

Are there human infections with swine flu in the US? Cases of human infection with swine influenza A (H1N1) viruses have been reported in parts of the US and several other countries. CDC and local and state health agencies are working together to investigate this situation.

Is this swine flu virus contagious? CDC has determined that this virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. It is not known how easily the virus spreads between people.

What are the signs and symptoms of swine flu in people?They are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. In the past, severe illness (pneumonia and respiratory failure) and deaths have been reported with swine flu infection in people.

How does swine flu spread? Spread of this virus happens the same way seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly through coughing or sneezing of people. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it, then touching their mouth or nose.

How can someone with the flu infect someone else? Infected people may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 7 or more days after becoming sick. That means you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

What should I do to keep from getting the flu?First and most important: wash your hands. Try to stay in good general health. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food. Try not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Are there medicines to treat swine flu? CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir or zanamivir for the treatment of infection with these swine influenza 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 prevent serious flu complications. For treatment, these drugs work best if started within 2 days of symptom onset.

How long can an infected person spread swine flu to others? People are considered potentially contagious as long as they have symptoms and possibly for up to 7 days after onset of the illness. Children could be contagious for longer periods.

What surfaces are most likely to be sources of contamination? Germs can be spread when a person touches something 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.

How long can viruses live outside the body? We know that some viruses and bacteria can live 2 hours or longer on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs, and desks. Frequent handwashing will help you reduce the chance of getting contamination from these common surfaces.

What can I do to protect myself from getting sick? There is no vaccine right now to protect against swine flu. Take these everyday 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 get sick with influenza, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

What is the best way to keep from spreading the virus?Follow the steps above.

What is the best technique for washing my hands to avoid getting the flu? Wash your hands often. Use soap and water, or clean with alcohol-based hand cleaner. We recommend you wash your hands -- with soap and warm water -- 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 alcohol in the gel kills the germs on your hands.

What should I do if I get sick? If you live in areas where swine influenza cases have been identified and become ill with influenza-like symptoms, including fever, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, or vomiting or diarrhea, you should call your health care provider if you are worried about your symptoms. Your health care provider will decide if influenza testing or treatment is needed.

If you are sick, stay home and avoid contact with other people to keep from spreading your illness. If you become ill and experience any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care.

In children, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish 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

In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting

Can I get swine influenza from eating or preparing pork? No, this virus is not spread by food. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.
    For additional information, go to 
www.cdc.gov/swineflu/.


     

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