The first U.S. case of H1N1 flu, or swine flu, occurred in April 2009. Since then, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that as many as 1 million Americans may have been infected with H1N1 flu.
Most people infected with H1N1 flu have recovered without medical treatment. Certain people may have a greater risk of developing complications from H1N1 flu, including those with diabetes, heart disease, asthma, kidney disease. Pregnant women and those who are obese seem to develop more complications from H1N1 flu.
The flu virus can live on surfaces that people routinely touch for up to eight hours. If you touch a contaminated object and then touch your mouth, nose or eyes, you can transfer the virus to your body.
You can take steps to prevent H1N1 flu, including:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Thorough hand washing, especially after coughing, sneezing, using the restroom or touching things that others often touch, can help prevent the spread of diseases like the flu.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If a tissue isn’t available, use your sleeve. Used tissues should be thrown away immediately after the cough or sneeze.
- Avoid contact with sick people. If someone around you is coughing or sneezing, keep your distance.
Vaccinations may help prevent the flu or lessen its severity. Researches currently are working on an H1N1 vaccination that may be available in the fall. When the vaccine becomes available, the CDC recommends that it be given to the following groups:
- Pregnant women
- Caregivers for children under the age of 6 months
- Health care and emergency medical services personnel
- Everyone between the ages of 6 months and 24 years of age
- Those people ages 25 to 64 who have health conditions that place them at higher risk for complications
Symptoms and Treatment
The main symptoms of H1N1 flu are the same as any other type of flu viral infection: fever (usually over 101° F), chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache and feeling tired. With H1N1 flu, you also may have diarrhea and vomiting.
If you develop flu-like symptoms, you should stay home from work or school. You can return after your fever has been gone for 24 hours without taking fever-reducing medicines like acetaminophen. If a family member has symptoms of the flu, make sure you’re following the preventive measures above and that you aren’t developing similar symptoms.
So far, most people infected by the H1N1 virus have gotten better with home treatment including drinking plenty of fluids and getting lots of rest. You can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever, body aches and headache symptoms but follow directions to ensure you aren’t taking too much. Do not give aspirin or products containing aspirin to children or teenagers who have flu-like symptoms.
Certain antiviral drugs, such as Tamiflu, may be prescribed within the first 12 to 48 hours of flu-like symptoms. These medications are used to prevent the virus from spreading throughout the body.
When to See Your Doctor
H1N1, like other types of flu, can cause serious complications. If you experience the following symptoms, call your doctor or seek immediate emergency care:
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness or confusion
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms that improve but return with fever and a worse cough
Children who are developing complications may experience these additional symptoms:
- Rapid, troubled breathing
- Bluish or gray skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Not waking up or interacting
- Being so irritable that the child doesn’t want to be held
People who are at risk of complications should call their doctors if they develop flu-like symptoms.
Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center now has a special H1N1 (Swine Flu) Information Line that will provide you with information about the flu including: general information, symptoms, when to seek medical treatment and at-risk groups and vaccinations. The service offers pre-recorded messages along with an option to get a free, confidential physician referral. To access the H1N1 Information Line, please call 1-800-711-3463.
To learn more about H1N1 flu, go to www.cdc.gov