H1N1 flu is a new type of virus. When the virus was first discovered, it was thought to be similar to a virus usually found in pigs. But now experts know the H1N1 virus is not the same as the swine flu. The H1N1 flu passes from person to person through contact with germs in the air and on surfaces.
You cannot get H1N1 flu from eating or touching pork. You don’t need to panic about H1N1 flu, but it’s important to take steps to protect yourself and your family. You can do this by learning about the H1N1 flu, talking to your doctor, and following the advice of public health officials in your area. If you have children, teach them how to take the steps outlined on this handout to prevent H1N1.
Symptoms of H1N1 Flu
The symptoms of H1N1 flu are the same as symptoms of seasonal flu:
• body aches
• sore throat
• runny or stuffy nose
Some people with H1N1 flu also have diarrhea and vomiting. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to call your doctor right away.
How to Protect Yourself from H1N1 Flu
Follow these simple steps every day to protect yourself and others:
• Cough and sneeze into tissues, and throw those tissues in the trash right away. This will keep germs from passing to surfaces from dirty tissues.
• Wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after you cough or sneeze, and before you eat. When washing your hands, use soap and warm water and slowly count to 20 before finishing.
• Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth without washing your hands first. This is how germs spread.
• Stay away from sick people, and stay home if you are sick. Close contact can put you or others at risk for catching the illness too.
The H1N1 Flu Vaccine
As of August 2009, a vaccine for the H1N1 virus is still being studied. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) expects the vaccine to be available beginning this fall. To get the latest information about an H1N1 vaccine, visit the CDC website, www.cdc.gov. You can also ask your doctor about the vaccine. The H1N1 vaccine doesn’t replace the regular flu (influenza) vaccine. You’ll need both vaccines to stay protected from both types of flu.
How H1N1 Flu Spreads
H1N1 flu seems to spread the same way seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses pass from one person to another through germs when you cough or sneeze. You can also get the virus from touching something with flu germs on it, like a pen or doorknob, and then touching your mouth or nose. With H1N1 flu, you may be able to pass germs to others before you even have symptoms and for more than a week after your symptoms start. This means you can spread H1N1 flu before you know you are sick, and after you get sick. Because of this, it’s important to always take steps to prevent the spread of germs.
What to Do if You Get Sick
If you have any flu symptoms, call your doctor. Your doctor may prescribe antiviral medicines. Antiviral medicines are prescription medicines that fight flu viruses and can help treat H1N1 flu. If you get sick, antivirals can make your illness milder and not last as long. They can also help prevent flu complications in your sinuses or lungs. Antivirals work best when you take them within two days of symptoms. So call your doctor right away if you have any flu-like symptoms.If you do get the H1N1 flu, stay home from work or school until your symptoms, including fever of 100°F or more, have been gone for at least 24 hours.
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