There have been multiple cases of H1N1 flu (swine flu) reported in the United States and internationally. The majority of cases have been reported in Mexico, which is thought to be the origin of this outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is closely monitoring reported cases of H1N1 flu (swine flu) in the U.S.
H1N1 flu (swine flu) is a respiratory disease caused by type A influenza viruses that regularly cause outbreaks of influenza in pigs. The virus typically does not infect humans.
As with seasonal flu, the CDC believes H1N1 flu (swine flu) may be spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing. Or a person may become infected by touching something with the flu virus on it and then touching their mouth or nose.
The symptoms associated with H1N1 flu (swine flu) closely resemble those of regular human flu. They include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with H1N1 flu (swine flu) have also reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
If you have symptoms, first consult with your health care provider and they will determine whether influenza testing or treatment is needed.
Additionally, if you experience any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care:*
Fast breathing or troubled breathing
Bluish skin color
Not drinking enough fluids
Not waking up or interacting
Irritable and does not want to be held
Flu-like symptoms improve, but return with fever and cough
Fever with a rash
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
Severe or persistent vomiting
There are antiviral medicines available to treat and prevent H1N1 flu (swine flu). The two antiviral drugs the CDC recommends for treatment of H1N1 flu (swine flu) are Tamiflu(oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir). Both medications require a prescription.
Antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious flu complications. For treatment, antiviral drugs work best if started soon after getting sick (within 2 days of symptoms).
The seasonal vaccine for the human flu, Amantadine (brand name Symmetrel®) and Rimantadine (brand name Flumadine ®) are not effective against the current strain of swine flu, H1N1.
There are simple everyday steps you can take to help prevent the spread of influenza:
Cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for 10-15 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after you sneeze or cough.
Keep living or work areas clean by using household detergents (e.g. hand soap, dishwashing liquid) and sanitize surfaces with bleach or alcohol.
Avoid contact with others who are sick. If you are sick, stay home from work or school.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Frequently asked questions
Can I get H1N1 flu (swine flu) from eating or preparing pork?
No, H1N1 flu (swine flu) viruses are not spread by food and you cannot get H1N1 flu (swine flu) from consuming cooked pork products.
How can H1N1 flu (swine flu)be diagnosed?
A respiratory specimen would need to be collected within the first 4 to 5 days of illness. Identification as a H1N1 flu (swine influenza A virus) requires the specimen be sent to the CDC for laboratory testing.
Can I give aspirin to my child or teenager who has the flu?
Do not give aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) to children or teenagers who have the flu; this can cause a rare but serious illness called Reye's syndrome.
Teenagers with the flu can take medicines without aspirin, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) and ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®), to relieve symptoms. Children younger than 2 years of age should not be given over-the-counter cold medications without first speaking with a healthcare provider.
How long am I infectious if I have influenza?
Children with influenza may be infectious for up to 10 days after illness onset with influenza, while adults are thought to be infectious for 5 - 7 days. Public health investigators are working to understand the precise length of infectiousness. If a child has been confirmed to have swine-origin influenza, then seek the advice of the child's health care provider and the health department about when the child can return to school.
*Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov/swineflu accessed April 28, 2009)