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County of San Diego: H1N1 Flu and You FAQs

Information for People Living in San Diego County from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What is swine flu?

H1N1 influenza, also known as swine flu, is a new strain of flu that has not previously been seen in the United States. Swine flu has been seen in the United States before, but not this strain, which is caused by type A influenza viruses. Outbreaks of swine flu happen regularly in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can and do happen.

Are humans infected with H1N1 flu in San Diego County?

In late March and early April 2009, cases of human infection with H1N1 flu were first reported in Southern California and near San Antonio, Texas. At this time, human cases of H1N1 flu infection have been reported in San Diego County. CDC and local and state health agencies are working together to investigate this situation.

Are there going to be more cases?

More cases are anticipated because health care providers have been put on alert and heightened surveillance to help identify patients with flu-like symptoms.

Is this flu virus contagious?

CDC has determined that this virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human.

We have an entire flu season every year; why is there so much concern about this flu?

Yes, we do have flu in our communities throughout the year, with a definite increase in flu during the “flu season”. As a matter of fact, approximately 35,000 people die nationally in any given year from the seasonal flu. What is different is this flu strain is new; therefore, the current seasonal flu vaccine does not protect against it and people have not built up any immunity to it yet. Also, because it is new, our medical community really doesn’t know how our bodies will physically respond to it.

What if I got my seasonal flu shot?

This H1N1 influenza virus currently circulating has never been seen before and the vaccine you received for your seasonal flu shot will not protect you. Also, any vaccinations received for swine flu previously (there was an outbreak in 1976) would not provide immunity as this virus is a different strain. There is no vaccine currently available to protect against swine flu.

What are the signs and symptoms of H1N1 flu in people?

The symptoms of H1N1 flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. In the past, severe illness (pneumonia and respiratory failure) and deaths have been reported with swine flu infection in people. Like seasonal flu, H1N1 flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.

How serious is H1N1 flu infection?

Like seasonal flu, H1N1 flu in humans can vary in severity from mild to severe. Between 2005 until January 2009, 12 human cases of swine flu were detected in the U.S. with no deaths occurring. However, swine flu infection can be serious. In September 1988, a previously healthy 32-year-old pregnant woman in Wisconsin was hospitalized for pneumonia after being infected with swine flu and died 8 days later. A swine flu outbreak in Fort Dix, New Jersey occurred in 1976 that caused more than 200 cases with serious illness in several people and one death.

But I have heard that in the recent cases, people in the United States just get flu-like symptoms?

Yes, so far in the United States most people have had regular seasonal flu-like symptoms and recover. However, in Mexico numerous people were hospitalized and there have been deaths, so we are watching and preparing for that possibility here in the United States.

How do you catch swine flu?

Spread of swine flu can occur in two ways:

* Through contact with infected pigs or environments contaminated with swine flu viruses.

* Through contact with a person with swine flu. Human-to-human spread of swine flu has been documented also and is thought to occur in the same way as seasonal flu. Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.

Are there medicines to treat swine flu?

Yes. CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir or zanamivir for the treatment and/or prevention of infection with these swine influenza viruses. 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).

How long can an infected person spread H1N1 flu to others?

People with H1N1 influenza virus infection should be considered potentially contagious as long as they are symptomatic and possibly for up to 7 days following illness onset. Children, especially younger children, might potentially be contagious for longer periods.

What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?

There is no vaccine available right now to protect against H1N1 flu. 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:

* Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

* Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

* Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

* If you get sick with influenza, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

What should I do if I get sick?

If you live in San Diego County and become ill with influenza-like symptoms, including fever, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, or vomiting or diarrhea, you may want to contact their health care provider, particularly if you are worried about your symptoms. Your health care provider will determine whether influenza testing or treatment is needed.

If you are sick, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people as much as possible to keep from spreading your illness to others.

If you become ill and experience any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care.

In children emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

* Fast breathing or trouble breathing

* Bluish skin color

* Not drinking enough fluids

* Not waking up or not interacting

* Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held

* Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

* Fever with a rash

In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

* 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 eating or preparing 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.

CDC H1N1 Flu Information


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