What is the difference between seasonal flu and this new strain of H1N1?
Seasonal flu viruses have been circulating in human populations for several seasons, allowing people to build up immunities to them. Most people do not yet have immunity to the new strain of H1N1 flu. A vaccine is available to prevent seasonal flu. A vaccine for novel H1N1 flu is being developed and is expected to be available in October or November.
What can the public do to get prepared in case there is a flu pandemic?
It’s important to be prepared for emergencies – including flu pandemics – that may disrupt commercial and community activities. Everyone should have an emergency plan and a disaster supplies kit with enough food and water to last for several days or up to two weeks. For information on emergency planning for families, visit www.TexasPrepares.org (English) or www.TexasPrepara.org (Spanish). Getting seasonal flu vaccine this fall is very important. Getting the novel H1N1 vaccine when it is available will also be important.
Source: Texas Department of State Health Services
What is novel H1N1 Flu (swine flu) and how is it transmitted?
The respiratory virus that is currently circulating in the United States is passed from person to person without contact with pigs. The name now being used is novel H1N1 flu. Novel H1N1 flu is a respiratory illness thought to spread in the same way that seasonal flu is spread, which is through people infected with the virus who are coughing or sneezing. It can be spread by touching something with flu viruses on it, such as a tissue or a door knob, and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose.
What should I do if someone I live with is sick with flu-like symptoms?
When providing care to a household member who is sick with influenza, protect yourself and others by:
- Keeping the sick person away from other people as much as possible
- Reminding the sick person to cover their coughs, and clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub often, especially after coughing and/or sneezing.
- Reminding everyone in the household to clean their hands often, using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub
Additional details on caring for a sick person such as laundry, cleaning and having visitors are available at the CDC H1N1 flu Web site: www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/guidance_homecare.htm.
Can I get infected with novel H1N1 virus from eating or preparing pork?
No. Novel H1N1 viruses are not spread by food. You cannot get infected with novel HIN1 virus from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.
How can I avoid getting infected?
You can protect yourself from the H1N1 flu by washing your hands frequently with soap and warm water. You also can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. You should also avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Stay away from people who are sick (especially if they have fever, cough and a sore throat). Get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly, manage stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious foods. See more tips and information under the "Things You Can Do" tab.
Is there a risk from drinking water?
Tap water that has been treated by conventional disinfection processes does not likely pose a risk for transmission of influenza viruses.
Current drinking water treatment regulations provide a high degree of protection from viruses. No research has been completed on the susceptibility of novel H1N1 flu virus to conventional drinking water treatment processes.
However, recent studies have demonstrated that free chlorine levels typically used in drinking water treatment are adequate to inactivate highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza. It is likely that other influenza viruses such as novel H1N1 would also be similarly inactivated by chlorination.
To date, there have been no documented human cases of influenza caused by exposure to influenza-contaminated drinking water.
Can novel H1N1 flu virus be spread through water in swimming pools, interactive fountains, and other treated recreational water venues?
Influenza viruses infect the human upper respiratory tract. There has never been a documented case of influenza virus infection associated with water exposure.
Recreational water that has been treated at CDC recommended disinfectant levels does not likely pose a risk for transmission of influenza viruses.
What are the symptoms of H1N1 flu?
Almost all people in Texas with confirmed novel H1N1 flu have had a sudden onset of fever (half having a temperature greater than 102.5 degrees) and cough.
Most have had a sore throat. Almost everyone with H1N1 flu has been taken care of at home and recovered in a few days. Illnesses with a lot of nasal congestion and mild fever are probably not H1N1 flu. Illnesses with diarrhea and vomiting are probably not H1N1 flu, although some with a confirmed case of H1N1 have had such symptoms.
Other symptoms may include runny nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. People may have only one or two symptoms besides the fever, or they may have many. People can infect others with the H1N1 flu even before they show symptoms, and they remain contagious for seven or more days after they become sick.
What do I do if I have these symptoms?
Stay home if you get sick. Stay home from work, school, errands and limit close contact with others to keep from infecting them. In most cases people with H1N1 flu will get better without medical attention. If you have been diagnosed with H1N1, stay home while you have symptoms.
Wait to be around people until your fever has been gone for 24 hours without taking fever-reducing medications. If you work in a hospital or other healthcare setting around people at high risk of complications from flu, stay home for 7 days after symptoms began or until your symptoms are gone, whichever is longer.
If you are at risk for complications of influenza, call your health care provider. Follow your provider's advice. Most people with nasal congestion and mild fever don't have H1N1 flu. If you have mild symptoms, do not call your health care provider or visit the hospital emergency room. Get plenty of rest, drink fluids, take fever-reducing medications if needed.
What is self-isolation?
Self-isolation is when sick people stay home and away from other people until they no longer have a fever (100 degrees Fahrenheit) or signs of a fever (have chills, feel very warm, have flushed appearance, or are sweating). This should be determined without the use of fever-reducing medications (any medicine that contains ibuprofen or acetaminophen). During the period of self-isolation, sick people should limit contact with others and try to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from people.
During current flu conditions, people who are sick should stay home and away from other people until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever or signs of a fever. If flu conditions become more severe, those who are sick should stay at their home, dormitory, or residence hall for at least 7 days, even if symptoms go away sooner. People who are still sick after 7 days should continue to stay home until at least 24 hours after symptoms have gone away.
Who is at risk of complications of flu?
- Children younger than 5 years old (under 2 years are especially vulnerable)
- Pregnant women
- Young adults 19 through 24 years of age
- Adults and children with certain chronic medical conditions including chronic lung problems such as asthma, heart, liver, blood, nervous system, muscular, or metabolic disorders such as diabetes.
- Note: If exhibiting flu-like symptoms, these individuals need to seek medical attention.
- Adults and children who have immunodeficiency or immuno-suppression, including that caused by medications such as corticosteroids and chemotherapy, or diseases such as HIV/AIDS
- Persons 50 years old or older, particularly 65 years or older
- People who live in settings such as residential halls.
What are considered severe symptoms?
- Difficulty breathing
- Purple or blue discoloration of the lips
- Vomiting and unable to keep liquids down
- Signs of dehydration such as dizziness when standing, absence of urination
- Seizures or uncontrolled convulsions
- Loss of consciousness
- Alteration in thinking
Is there a vaccine for H1N1 flu?
There is a vaccine under development for H1N1 flu that is expected to be available later in the fall. The seasonal flu vaccine does not provide protection against H1N1 flu but is important in protecting you from other flu viruses that can make you as sick or sicker. This makes ordinary precautions such as covering coughs and sneezes and washing hands even more important. It's also important to be up-to-date on your other vaccinations, such as TdaP (tetanus/pertussis/diphtheria and Pneumococcal vaccines, to avoid getting infected with more than one germ at once.
Can you expect more cases to be reported?
Yes. The virus has been found across the United States and in many other countries. We expect that novel H1N1 will be one of the viruses that circulates widely this flu season (usually October to May) along with other seasonal flu viruses. Texas will likely have millions of cases of influenza, and many of those will be caused by novel H1N1 virus.
Source: Texas Department of State Health Services