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How do I avoid It? | How do I know if I've got it? | When should I seek medical attention? | Resources | Print this page

It’s still in the news, and doesn’t seem to be leaving any time soon, so it seems like time to give you an update on what is happening with the H1N1 flu. Here’s the latest scoop:

The CDC has determined that the H1N1 virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. However, at this time, it is not known how easily the virus spreads between people. As of July 24, 2009, the CDC has confirmed 43,771 cases in the US and its territories, and confirmed 302 deaths from the H1N1 virus.

The World Health Organization raised its pandemic alert to level 6, indicating that the disease has been found in enough countries to have become a global pandemic. Please remember that this says nothing about the severity of the disease, the degree of contagiousness, or anything relating to personal risk, and is simply an indication that the disease is present worldwide.

How do I avoid it?

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.

Influenza virus is destroyed by heat (167-212°F [75-100°C]). In addition, several chemical germicides, including chlorine (present in bleach), 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.

Frequent hand washing is your best defense against catching any flu. Alcohol gels make an adequate substitute for soap and water. Be sure to wash your hands after any contact with surfaces other people are likely to have recently touched such as door knobs, handles of grocery baskets, public toilets, etc.

It is possible to catch a flu by breathing in droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze, so try to avoid being in close proximity to someone who is coughing or sneezing. back to top

How do I know if I’ve got it?

The symptoms of novel H1N1 flu virus in people are similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu and 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. back to top

When should I seek medical attention?

All indications so far suggest that the H1N1 flu causes relatively mild symptoms in people who are infected. If you simply experience the symptoms noted above, drink lots of extra water, stay home, and use your favorite herbal or over-the-counter flu remedy.

As with any seasonal flu, some people can develop symptoms which require medical intervention. People most likely to experience severe complications from flu include small children, pregnant women, and people with other medical conditions such as asthma, severe allergies, and diabetes. It appears that many people over 64 years of age have some level of immunity to the H1N1 flu virus, and may have milder symptoms and fewer complications to this flu than to a typical seasonal flu.

If you or someone you know become ill and experience any of the following warning signs, please seek emergency medical care.
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In children, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish or gray skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • 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

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
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

Resources

For more information including the latest updates, check out these web sites:
http://www.who.int/csr/don/2009_07_27/en/index.html
http://www.cdc.gov/H1N1flu/update.htm
http://www.cdc.gov/H1N1flu/qa.htm

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