What is H1N1 virus and Influenza A?
Influenza A is a respiratory illness with multiple strains. In recent years, most seasonal flu has been either an H1N1 or H2N3 strain; however, in 2009, a new strain of H1N1 appeared. To avoid confusion with older common strains of H1N1, the new virus is referred to as “novel H1N1 influenza.” For most people who contract the H1N1 virus, the illness is comparable in severity to the traditional seasonal flu.
When does the CDC predict that widespread H1N1 will hit the United States?
No one knows whether this infection will be widespread in the U.S. early in the typical flu season (around October), or whether widespread illness will occur even earlier. It’s even possible that the spread of the infection will continue to be sustained throughout the spring and even into summer 2010. Seasonal flu typically occurs from December to March, but we are likely to see an increase in novel H1N1 in early fall, which may overlap with regular flu season.
What are the signs and symptoms of H1N1 flu?
The symptoms of H1N1 flu are similar to the symptoms of regular (seasonal) flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with H1N1 flu. Like seasonal flu, H1N1 flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.
How do you know if you have H1N1 or a simple cold?
Infections with the H1N1virus are generally associated with a higher fever than infections with cold viruses. H1N1 symptoms are sudden in onset (cold symptoms are typically slower in onset) and are characterized by severe feelings of weakness and fatigue. H1N1 often comes with headaches, while colds generally cause mild headaches from sinus congestion. Sneezing and nasal congestion are more common with colds than with the H1N1. Coughs and muscle aches also are generally more severe with H1N1.
What do I do if I suspect I have H1N1?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), most people who get H1N1 will be able to take care of themselves at home without needing medical care. If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms you should take the following steps:
If, however, you have a chronic medical condition (such as asthma, diabetes, or other conditions affecting the heart, lungs, blood, liver, or kidneys, weakened immune system, etc.); are pregnant; or if symptoms become severe (trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest, sudden dizziness, severe or persistent vomiting, etc.) you should seek medical attention immediately.
You should remain at home until you are fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications.
Students who have questions regarding symptoms and/or treatment should call the UWF Student Health Center at (850) 474-2172. The Florida Department of Health also has a toll-free information line (877) 352-3581 which is operational seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CST. A series of recorded messages is available in several languages along with an option to speak to a Department of Health representative.
Do I need to take antiviral medication?
According to the CDC, most low risk (otherwise healthy) people who get H1N1 will be able to take care of themselves at home without needing medical care. Over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol®, Advil®, or Aleve® can be used to reduce fever. Caution should be taken to check the ingredients of all medications to ensure that you do not “double dose” on a particular drug. At this time, the CDC is recommending that antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu® and Relenza® only be used to treat those who are at high risk and/or who have been hospitalized.
My friend was prescribed Tamiflu® by her family doctor; why wasn’t I prescribed the same at the Student Health Center?
The medical providers at the Student Health Center are following the CDC recommendations regarding the prescribing of antiviral medications. According to the American College Health Association, “College health professionals are mindful of their societal responsibility to be good stewards of the supply of antiviral medications…Antiviral medication that is over-used now may not be available for those at high risk for complications of influenza in the near future.” According to the CDC, most low risk (otherwise healthy) people who get H1N1 will be able to take care of themselves at home without needing medical care.
I have been treating myself at home, but feel like I am getting worse instead of better. What now?
If you have been treating yourself at home and feel like you are getting worse, you should seek medical attention at the Student Health Center or see your family doctor. Seek medical attention immediately / call 911 if you begin to experience any of the following symptoms:
How does the H1N1 virus spread?
Spread of the H1N1virus occurs in the same way that seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing. A person may also become infected by touching something with the flu virus on it, then touching their mouth or nose, as studies have shown that influenza virus can survive for up to 2-8 hours on environmental surfaces, such as books, doorknobs, keyboards, phones and ipods.
How can someone with H1N1 infect someone else?
Infected people may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to seven or more days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.
Classroom and work-place exposure to the flu generally requires close, face-to-face contact with an ill person up to 24 hours before they developed flu-like symptoms. Anyone who is well, but has a roommate or family member at home diagnosed with the flu, can attend class or work as usual. If, however, you are at high risk for getting the flu (i.e., you are pregnant or have a chronic medical condition such as asthma, diabetes or other conditions affecting the heart, lungs, blood, liver or kidneys, weakened immune system, etc.) you should see your health care provider immediately.
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.
How long can viruses live outside the body?
It is generally thought that the H1N1 virus can live outside of the body for 2-8 hours or longer on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs, phones and desks. Frequent hand washing will help reduce the chance of getting contamination from these common surfaces. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
Is there anything I should do now while I am well?
First and most importantly, wash your hands frequently. Wash with soap and water for a minimum of 15-20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Stock up on items that you might need if you do become sick: a digital thermometer to monitor your fever, tissues, over-the-counter medications, food, clear liquids (tea, water, sports drinks), etc.
Also, it would be a good idea to stock up now on items you may need (digital thermometer, over-the-counter medicines, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, tissues, food, clear fluids, etc.) in the event that you do become sick.
Try to stay in good general health. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food. Try not to touch surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus.
If I get the regular (seasonal) flu shot will it protect me from H1N1?
No, the seasonal flu shot was formulated to protect against the 3 most likely strains of flu from previous years. The novel H1N1 virus was not identified until late spring 2009.
When will the regular (seasonal) flu shot be available? Will we get them the same time as the H1N1 vaccination?
UWF’s seasonal flu vaccine will be available in late September or early October.. Availability of the H1N1 vaccine is expected later in the fall. Faculty, staff and students will be notified via e-mail and Argus when the seasonal flu vaccine and H1N1 vaccine are available.
What is the best way to keep from spreading the virus?
If you are sick, limit your contact with other people as much as possible. Do not go to work or class if ill. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Put your used tissue in the waste basket. Cover your cough or sneeze with your arm if you do not have a tissue. Make sure to wash your hands after coughing or sneezing.
What is the best technique for washing my hands to avoid getting the flu?
Washing your hands will help protect you from germs. Wash your hands with soap and water for 15 to 20 seconds. (Try singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice while washing your hands – this will help you determine the appropriate amount of time spend.) When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used. You can find them in most supermarkets and drugstores. If using gel, rub your hands until the gel is dry. The gel doesn't need water to work; the alcohol in it kills the germs on your hands.
How serious is H1N1 flu infection?
Like seasonal flu, H1N1 flu in humans can vary in severity from mild to severe. Most people who have had the H1N1 virus have done well, but a small number of patients have been seriously ill, and some have died. The most serious cases have generally appeared in patients who have had underlying medical conditions which predisposed them to more complications such as pneumonia, secondary bacterial infections, asthma attacks, etc. Conditions that may put you at high risk include, but are not limited to, asthma, diabetes, or other conditions affecting the heart, lungs, blood, liver or kidneys, weakened immune system. Women who are or may be pregnant are also at a higher risk of complications from H1N1.
How do I know if I’m in the high risk category?
In the American College Health Association Guidelines: Campus Response to Novel Influenza H1N1, high-risk individuals are defined as
High risk individuals may develop severe complications from H1N1 such as pneumonia. Individuals who are at risk should seek medical attention at the first signs of possible illness and/or if they share living space with someone who has H1N1.
What should I do if I’m pregnant?
Pregnant women are at higher risk of complications from H1N1 and should speak with their OB/GYN if they develop a flu-like illness for advice about antiviral flu medicines. Pregnant women are currently part of the first priority group to receive the 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine.
Can I get H1N1 influenza from eating or preparing pork?
No. H1N1 influenza viruses are not spread by food. You cannot get H1N1 influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.
How is the university working to reduce the risk of H1N1?
The University of West Florida is committed to providing the campus community with up-to-date information regarding prevention strategies, symptoms to watch for and steps to follow if you do become sick with H1N1. The following steps have been taken to minimize the spread of the flu on campus for as long as possible:
How has UWF prepared for an H1N1 outbreak?
The UWF Administration has been closely monitoring H1N1 since the spring and is following the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control. Earlier this summer, UWF’s President assembled a cross-divisional team of health care professionals and administrators to develop a plan for responding to the H1N1 virus. As part of that effort, the university endorsed the CDC Guidelines for Response to Influenza for Higher Education. We will continue to monitor and follow the CDC’s recommendations. Additionally, we continue to work with the Escambia County Health Department on plans for administering the H1N1 vaccine on campus when it becomes available.
If the situation escalates, how will I be informed?
The university will use many venues to communicate with the campus community, including broadcast e-mail, the UWF Web site and the local media. Other communication strategies may also be used, if needed.
Will classes, social gatherings or sporting events be limited, cancelled or postponed?
Based on guidance from the CDC, UWF does not, at this time, anticipate that H1N1 will cause any interruption in class schedules, UWF events or services provided by the university. Classroom and work-place exposure to the flu generally requires close, face-to-face contact with an ill person up to 24 hours before they developed flu-like symptoms. Anyone who is well, but has a roommate or family member at home diagnosed with the flu, can attend class or work as usual. If, however, you are at high risk for getting the flu (i.e., you are pregnant or have a chronic medical condition such as asthma, diabetes or other conditions affecting the heart, lungs, blood, liver or kidneys, weakened immune system, etc.) you should see your health care provider immediately.
What happens if I miss class because of H1N1?
Students are encouraged to ask their individual instructors how absences and missed assignments/tests will be handled.
Where can I learn more about H1N1?
There are several good sources of information available to the public. On campus, check the H1N1 Website frequently for updates and call the Student Health Center’s information line at (850) 474-2172. The Florida Department of Health has a toll-free information line which is available seven days a week from 7.a.m. to 7 p.m. at (877) 352-3581. The Centers for Disease Control toll-free number is (800) 232-4636. The CDC’s website is www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu. Also visit www.flu.gov for additional information.
This document will be updated often. Please revisit regularly: uwf.edu/H1N1