Background Information on New Flu Virus H1N1
H1N1 is a new influenza (flu) virus causing illness in people. This new virus was first detected in people in the United States in April 2009. Other countries are also reporting people sick with this new virus.
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has determined that the new flu virus H1N1 is contagious and there is evidence of human-to-human transmission. Although seasonal human influenza continues to circulate, anyone with a flu-like illness might potentially have the new flu virus H1N1.
What is the new flu virus H1N1 and how serious is the infection?
As information was gathered in Santa Clara County and elsewhere in the country, we learned that most U.S. cases have not been severe and are equal in severity to seasonal influenza. While this is reassuring, we must continue to pay attention and take common sense actions to protect our health. We are still dealing with a new flu virus for which people have little or no immunity and there is no vaccine.
Public Health Officials will continue to monitor its development. The concern now is whether or not it will mutate (change) as many flu viruses do, and if that happens, it could become more dangerous.
What are the symptoms of the new flu virus H1N1?
The symptoms of the new flu virus H1N1 in people are similar to the symptoms of regular seasonal flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, stuffy nose and congestion, body aches, headaches, chills and fatigue. People have also reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with the new flu virus H1N1.
How is the new flu virus H1N1 spread?
This virus spreads from person-to-person, in much the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread, most often when you cough or sneeze. Droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air, and if you breathe those in, you may become sick as well.
Also, these germs can spread when a person touches cough or sneeze “droplets” on a surface like a desk, and then touches their own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands.
Public Health Department Recommendations for Prevention and Care
At this time, there is no vaccine for the new flu virus (H1N1). Because it is a new virus, the seasonal influenza vaccine does not provide protection against it. Take these everyday steps to protect your health and help prevent the spread of the virus:
There are number of common sense actions you can take to prevent the spread of flu and other illnesses. It is always a good idea to regularly do the following:
- Each morning, check all family members and especially school age children for flu-like symptoms.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol based hand cleaners with at least 60% alcohol are also effective.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue whenever you sneeze or cough. Throw the tissue away in a waste basket. If you do not have a tissue, sneeze or cough into the fold of your elbow, without using your hands.
- Keep common areas clean, like kitchen counters, bathrooms, door handles, toys, telephones, and other household items.
- Allow fresh air to flow into your home or at work by opening screened windows and doors.
If you think you are sick
- If you have a fever of 100 F or higher and cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, call you doctor or medical provider. You doctor may have you come in for an appointment to evaluate your illness.
- If you have flu symptoms and need to go to a medical appointment, use a surgical mask or cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough. Throw the tissue in the trash afterward. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly and often.
- You should stay home for at least 7 days after you first had flu symptoms and until you stop having any symptoms, whichever is longer.
- While you are ill, think about wearing a surgical mask at home, and wash your hands frequently so that you don’t spread the virus to others.
- If you are feeling sick and don’t have a fever, it’s best to stay home from work or school, get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids. If your symptoms get worse, call your doctor or medical provider
- Do not have visitors in your home while the person is sick.
For more information
Go to www.sccphd.org
to find more instructions, prevention and preparedness information. This site provides What To Do If You Are Home With The Flu
and the Home Care Guide For Pandemic Flu
Information on the new flu virus H1N1 and updated United States case count of confirmed new flu virus H1N1 infections can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu
For advice on talking to children about the new flu virus H1N1parents and care givers may visit http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/talkingtokids.htm