Note: Much of the information in this document is based on studies and past experience with seasonal (human) influenza. CDC believes the information applies to 2009 H1N1 (swine) viruses as well, but studies on this virus are ongoing to learn more about its characteristics.
What is 2009 H1N1 (Swine Flu)?
Why is 2009 H1N1 virus sometimes called “swine flu”? This 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 the H1N1 virus is very different from what normally circu- lates in North American pigs.
How does 2009 H1N1 virus spread? Spread of 2009 H1N1 virus is thought to occur in the same way that seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing by people with influenza. Sometimes 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 this virus in people? The symptoms of 2009 H1N1 flu virus in people include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diar- rhea. People may be infected with the flu, including 2009 H1N1 and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.
Take these everyday steps to protect your health: Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available and alco- hol-based products are not allowed, other hand sanitizers that do not contain alcohol may be useful.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way. Try to avoid close contact with sick people. If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except for medical care/necessities.
If I have a family member at home who is sick with 2009 H1N1 flu, should I go to work? Employees who are well but who have an ill family member at home with 2009 H1N1 flu can go to work as usual. These employees should monitor their health every day, and take everyday precautions including washing their hands often with soap and water, especially after they cough or sneeze. If they become ill, they should notify their supervisor and stay home. For more information please see General Business and Workplace Guidance for the Prevention of Novel Influenza A (H1N1) Flu in Workers.
Are there medicines to treat 2009 H1N1 infection? Yes, based upon the CDC recommendations for antiviral treatment, the VA recommends Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or Zanamivir (Relenza). Confirmed, probable or suspected 2009 H1N1 or seasonal influenza treatment is recommended in persons who are hospitalized and who are se- verely ill or who are showing evidence of rapid clinical deterioration. Treatment should also be considered in patients who are at higher risk for influenza-related complications. High-risk for complications are defined as adults 65 years of age and older, persons with chronic pulmonary, cardiovascular (except hypertension), renal, hepatic, hematological (including sickle cell dis- ease), or metabolic disorders (including diabetes mellitus), disorders that can compromise respi- ratory function or the handling of respiratory secretions or that can increase the risk for aspira- tion, immunosuppression, pregnant women, persons younger than 19 years of age who are re- ceiving long-term aspirin therapy, residents of nursing homes/chronic-care facilities, and chil- dren young than 2 years old. Once the decision to administer antiviral treatment is made by the health care provider, treatment should be initiated within 48 hours of illness onset. This year, VA has agreed to vaccinate targeted non-VA, Federal workers who are at risk of 2009 novel H1N1 influenza because of their Federal occupations and whose agencies request vaccination at VHA medical facilities. Targeted populations at occupational risk of 2009 novel H1N1 influenza are currently limited to health care and emergency medical services personnel who have di- rect contact with patients or infectious material.