Seeking treatment is essential for severe cases of H1N1 flu, especially in pregnant women and young children
The following includes excerpted and edited information from the H1N1 site at the CDC; to track ongoing developments of the H1N1 pandemic, click on the H1N1
section of the CDC
What is H1N1 (swine flu)?
H1N1 (sometimes called “swine flu”) is a new influenza virus. It was first detected in the US in April 2009 and declared a worldwide pandemic in June 2009. In October, President Barak Obama declared a national emergency regarding H1N1 primarily to expand the ability of hospitals and other healthcare providers to treat people affected by H1N1 outside of emergency rooms and provider offices where they're more likely to infect others who come into contact with them.
The 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 (swine). But further study has shown that this new virus is very different from what normally circulates in North American pigs.
Since first appearing in the U.S., there have been more than 20,000 hospitalizations associated with H1N1, and more than 1,000 H1N1-related deaths, including at least 100 deaths in young children. Pregnant women and young children are affected disproportionately by H1N1 and are at highest risk of the greatest complications from the virus; in most healthy adults, H1N1 doesn't pose a serious threat.
How does H1N1 spread?
H1N1 spreads much in the same way that seasonal flu spreads -- through contact from person to person via oughing or sneezing, which releases the virus into the air and onto nearby surfaces where people can come into contact with it. 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.
What are the signs and symptoms of H1N1?
Fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu, including 2009 H1N1 and have respiratory symptoms without a fever. Severe illnesses and deaths have occurred as a result of illness associated with this virus.
How severe is the H1N1 flu virus?
Illness with 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.
In seasonal flu, certain people are at “high risk” of serious complications. This includes people 65 years and older, children younger than five years old, pregnant women, and people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions. About 70 percent of people who have been hospitalized with this 2009 H1N1 virus have had one or more medical conditions previously recognized as placing people at “high risk” of serious seasonal flu-related complications. This includes pregnancy, diabetes, heart disease, asthma and kidney disease.
Young children are also at high risk of serious complications from H1N1, just as they are from seasonal flu. And while people 65 and older are the least likely to be infected with 2009 H1N1 flu, if they get sick, they are also at “high risk” of developing serious complications from their illness.
CDC studies have shown that no children and very few adults younger than 60 years old have existing antibody to H1N1 flu virus; however, about one-third of adults older than 60 may have antibodies against this virus. It is unknown how much, if any, protection may be afforded against H1N1 flu by any existing antibody.
How long can an infected person spread this virus to others?
People infected with seasonal and 2009 H1N1 flu shed virus and may be able to infect others from 1 day before getting sick to 5 to 7 days after. This can be longer in some people, especially children and people with weakened immune systems and in people infected with the new H1N1 virus.
H1N1 prevention & treatment
What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?
Get vaccindated with both the seasonal flu vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine, which is now being released out to the state. A flu vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting against flu infection. You can also take these everyday steps to protect your health in general and against flu specifically:
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. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
. Germs spread this way.
Avoid close contact with sick people
as much as possible.
What should I do if I get sick?
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 to keep from making others sick.
Also, follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures. Be prepared in case you get sick and need to stay home for a week or so; a supply of over-the-counter medicines, alcohol-based hand rubs (for when soap and water are not available), tissues and other related items could help you to avoid the need to make trips out in public while you are sick and contagious.
What is the best way to keep from spreading the virus through coughing or sneezing?
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.
If I have a family member at home who is sick with 2009 H1N1 flu, should I go to work?
If you're feeling well but have an ill family member at home with H1N1 flu you can still go to work as usual. But monitor your health every day, and take everyday precautions including covering your coughs and sneezes and washing your hands often. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. If you become ill, notify your employer and stay home.
What if I'm pregnant and get sick with flu-like symptoms?
If you're pregnant, call your healthcare provider immediately because you may need influenza antiviral drugs.
What are “emergency warning signs” that should signal anyone to seek medical care urgently?
- 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
Are there medicines to treat H1N1 infection?
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
Yes. There are drugs called antiviral drugs that are used to treat both H1N1 and the seasonal flu. These drugs can make you better faster and may also prevent serious complications. This flu season, antiviral drugs are being used mainly to treat people who are very sick, such as people who need to be hospitalized, and to treat sick people who are more likely to get serious flu complications. Your health care provider will decide whether antiviral drugs are needed to treat your illness. Remember, most people with H1N1 have had mild illness and have not needed medical care or antiviral drugs and the same is true of seasonal flu.