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Novel H1N1 FAQs

University of Kentucky officials continue to closely monitor the evolving Novel H1N1 influenza (previously referred to as "swine" flu) outbreak. The safety of students, faculty, staff and patients remains our top priority. We continue to work with local health agencies to receive the most current information and contingency plans will be implemented quickly if the situation worsens. In the meantime, this list of frequently asked questions has been developed to better inform you and will be updated as needed.

What is Novel H1N1 (swine flu)?
Novel H1N1 is a new influenza virus causing illness in people. This new virus was first detected in people in the United States in April 2009. This virus is spreading from person-to-person worldwide, probably in much the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread. On June 11, 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) signaled that a pandemic of Novel H1N1 flu was underway.
Why is Novel 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) in North America. But further study has shown that this new virus is very different from what normally circulates in North American pigs. The current influenza epidemic in humans is caused by the H1N1 influenza virus and is really a genetic re-assortment of swine, bird and human flu virus.
Is this H1N1 flu contagious? How do you catch it?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that this influenza virus is contagious in much the same way that seasonal flu is.

Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people. People may also become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.
What are the signs and symptoms of H1N1 flu in people?
The symptoms in people are similar to the symptoms seen during the regular human seasonal flu and include:
  • fever greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • body/muscle aches
  • respiratory congestion
  • quick onset of symptoms
A significant number of people who have been infected with this virus also have reported diarrhea and vomiting. Like seasonal flu, the Novel H1N1 flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.
Are there medicines to treat the H1N1 flu?
Yes. The CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir or zanamivir (commonly known as Tamiflu and Relenza) for the treatment of infection with Novel H1N1. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaler) that fight against the flu by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in your body. If you get sick, 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 University of Kentucky Medical Center and University Health Service have a ready supply of these antiviral drugs needed to treat this influenza.
How long can an infected person spread the Novel H1N1 flu to others?
People infected with seasonal and Novel H1N1 flu shed virus and may be able to infect others from 1 day before getting sick to 5 to 7 days after. This can be longer in some people, especially children and people with weakened immune systems.

If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) Keep away from others as much as possible to keep from spreading the virus.
How long can influenza virus remain viable on objects (such as books and doorknobs)?
Studies have shown that influenza virus can survive on environmental surfaces and can infect a person for 2 to 8 hours after being deposited on the surface.
What kills influenza virus?
Influenza virus is destroyed by heat (167-212F [75-100C]). In addition, several chemical germicides, including chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, detergents (soap), iodophors (iodine-based antiseptics), and alcohols are effective against human influenza viruses if used in proper concentration for a sufficient length of time. For example, wipes or gels with alcohol in them can be used to clean hands. The gels should be rubbed into hands until they are dry.
What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?
There are everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza. Take these everyday steps to protect your health:
  • Get vaccinated. Vaccines are the most powerful public health tool for the control of influenza, and the U.S. government recommends that all who are eligible receive the vaccine.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water OR use alcohol hand rubs to prevent spread of infection, especially after coughing/sneezing.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough/sneeze; throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Cough/sneeze into your elbow if you do not have a tissue.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you do get sick with influenza, CDC recommends you stay home from work/school and limit contact with others to avoid infecting them.
  • If UK employees are sick, they should go to their primary care physician.
  • If UK students are sick they should go to University Health Services
    • 323-INFO (4636) to speak with a triage nurse
    • 323-APPT (2778) to make an appointment
What should I do if I get sick?
If you become ill with influenza-like symptoms - including fever, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea -then you should contact your primary health care provider or, if you are a student, University Health Service. Students may call 323-INFO (4636) to speak with a triage nurse or 323-APPT (2778) to make an appointment. Your health care provider will determine whether influenza testing or treatment is needed.

If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) Keep away from others as much as possible to keep from spreading the virus.

If you become ill and experience any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care:
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
Can I get swine influenza from preparing or eating pork?
No. Swine influenza viruses are not spread by food. You cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.
If I receive a seasonal flu shot this season, am I protected against the Novel H1N1 virus?
No, the current seasonal flu shot does not contain strains of the Novel H1N1 influenza virus currently infecting people, so you will not be vaccinated against this virus. However, the CDC points out that usual seasonal influenza viruses are still expected to cause illness this fall and winter. Individuals are encouraged to get their seasonal flu vaccine as soon as it is available.
Is there a separate vaccine for the Novel H1N1 virus?
Yes, there is a separate vaccine for Novel H1N1 virus.
Who can get the Novel H1N1 vaccine?
Vaccines are the most powerful public health tool for the control of influenza, and the U.S. government recommends that all who are eligible receive the vaccine. The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)has recommended that certain groups of the population receive the 2009 H1N1 vaccine first. These target groups include:
  • pregnant women,
  • people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age,
  • healthcare and emergency medical services personnel,
  • persons between the ages of 6 months and 24 years old,
  • people ages of 25 through 64 years of age who are at higher risk for 2009 H1N1 because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.
Where will the Novel H1N1 vaccine be available?
Novel H1N1 vaccine is currently available in a variety of locations. UK students can call University Health Service at 323-APPT (2778) to schedule an appointment to receive the vaccine. Employees and others should contact their personal physician, local health department, or retail pharmacy outlet about vaccine availability.

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Page last updated: July 18, 2012