You are here: Home > Home > Newsroom > 2009 H1N1 Influenza (Flu): Common Questions and Answers

2009 H1N1 Influenza (Flu): Common Questions and Answers

These answers are based on information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

What is the 2009 H1N1 Flu?
The 2009 H1N1 flu originally referred to as the “swine flu” is a new flu virus causing illness in people.  This new virus was detected in people in the United States in April 2009.  The virus is spreading from person-to-person worldwide in the same way as the regular seasonal influenza virus.  On June 11, 2009, the World Health Organization declared that a pandemic of flu was underway.  The CDC estimates that more than 1 million Americans have been infected.

Is the H1N1 virus contagious?
H1N1 virus is spread person-to-person, most likely by the droplet route that is spread by respiratory droplets that are expelled by infected persons when they sneeze or cough and spread to other within 3 to 6 feet.  It is also likely that virus can spread via contaminated environmental surfaces.

What are the symptoms of H1N1 Flu?
The symptoms of the 2009 H1N1 flu virus in people include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, fatigue, headache, and chills. A significant number of people who have been infected with this virus have reported vomiting and diarrhea. Severe illnesses and death has occurred as a result of illness associated with this virus.

How long can an infected person spread this virus to others?
People infected with seasonal and 2009 H1N1 flu shed virus and may be able to infect others from 1 day before getting sick to 5 to 7 days after the onset of symptoms.  This can be longer (i.e., 10 days) in some people, especially children and people with a weakened immune system.

How severe is illness associated with H1N1 flu virus?
Illness with H1N1 virus has ranged from mild to severe.  While most people who have been sick have recovered without needing medical treatment, hospitalizations and deaths from infection with this virus have occurred.

In seasonal flu, certain people are at “high risk” of serious complications:  This includes the following:

  • Children less than 5 years of age
  • Pregnant women
  • People with metabolic disorder such as diabetes
  • People with asthma
  • People with chronic heart disease such as congestive heart failure
  • People with chronic kidney or liver disease or failure
  • People taking immunosuppressive medications such as oral steroids, drugs to treat cancer, or other drugs that impair the immune system
  • Diseases that impair the immune system such as active cancer or HIV
  • People 65 years and older

However, people 65 years and older have not been at increased risk of acquiring 2008 H1N1 flu, although if infected they are at higher risk for complications.

In additional, persons who are obese, especially those with extreme obesity, appear to be at higher risk for complications from 2009 N1N1 flu.

What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?
Until the 2009 H1N1 vaccine is available you should take the following steps to protect your health:

  • Cover your mouth and nose 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.  If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.  FDA approved alcohol hand rubs eliminate 99.99% of flu viruses from the hands in 10-20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.  Germs spread this way.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, the 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 fever-reducing medications such as aspirin or Tylenol.  Keep away from others as much as possible to keep from making other sick.

What should I do if I develop H1N1 flu?
If you become ill with fever and respiratory symptoms such as cough, sore throat, and/or runny nose, stay home and do NOT go to work or class.  Only seek care from your medical provider if you are a high risk of complications for flu OR have symptoms suggesting severe disease.  Take the following steps:

Keep away from others as much as possible.  This is to keep from making others ill.

  • Stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone, except to seek medical care or for other necessities.  Fever should be gone without use of a fever-reducing medication,
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink clear fluids such as water, broth or sport drinks, to keep from being dehydrated
  • Cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.  Clean hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub often and especially after using tissues and after coughing or sneezing into hands.
  • Wear a facemask, if available and feasible, when sharing common spaces with other household members or dormitory members to help prevent spreading the virus to others.

 

When should I seek medical care for myself or my child from my health provider?
In adults, if you become ill and experience any of the following warning signs, seek immediate medical care from your health provider:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough


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

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish or gray skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • 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


Are there any medications to treat H1N1 infection?
Yes.  The CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir (tamaflu) or zanamivir (relenza) for the prevention or treatment of infection with 2009 H1N1 flu.  Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid, inhaled powder) that fight against the flu virus by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in your body.  If you are sick, antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you better faster.  They may also prevent serious flu complications.  If you have one of the following underlying conditions and you have had direct exposure to a person with H1N1 flu OR you have the symptoms of flu you should immediately seek an evaluation from your medical provider to see if you should take antiviral medications:

  • Children  less than 5 years of age
  • Pregnant women
  • People with metabolic disorder such as diabetes
  • People with asthma
  • People with chronic heart disease such as congestive heart failure
  • People with chronic kidney or liver disease or failure
  • People taking immunosuppressive medications such as oral steroids, drugs to treat cancer, or other drugs that impair the immune system
  • Diseases that impair the immune system such as active cancer or HIV


Treatment is most likely to be beneficial when initiated within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms

If I have a family member or roommate who is sick with 2009 H1N1 flu, should I go to work or attend classes?
Persons who have an ill family member or roommate can go to work or attend class as usual. However, these persons should monitor their health every day such as taking their temperature in the morning before going to class or work.  They should also take precautions such as washing their hands often with soap and water, especially after they sneeze or cough.  Alcohol-based hand rubs are also effective.  If persons become ill they should notify their workplace or college health provider AND stay home.  UNC Chapel Hill University students should notify Campus Health at 966-6573. Persons who have an underlying condition which places them at high risk for complications of flu should call their medical provider for advice, because they might need to receive antiviral medications to prevent illness.

Exposure not thought to spread H1N1 flu
You cannot get 2009 H1N1 flu from any of the following:

  • Eating any food, including pork or pork products
  • Drinking tap water
  • Water in swimming pools, spas, water parks, interactive fountains, and other sources treated recreational water venues


Special considerations for college or university students
As with all other persons, if you become ill with fever and respiratory symptoms such as cough, sore throat, and/or runny nose, stay in your dormitory room and do NOT go to class.  UNC Chapel Hill students should notify Campus Health at 966-6573.  Students at other colleges and universities should call whoever has been designated at your campus and report your illness.  Only seek care at Campus Health if you are at high risk of complications for flu OR have symptoms suggesting severe disease.

Follow your school’s guidance on whether you should leave your dormitory room and return to your home, home of a relative, or a close family friend.

Prepare for the possibility of classes by planning to continue your work at home such as homework packets, web-based lessons, or phone calls.

When will the 2009 H1N1 vaccine be available?
The FDA has already approved the 2009 H1N1 vaccine from 4 manufacturers.  The vaccine should be available for clinical use early in October of 2009.  The vaccine itself is provided free of charge by the Federal Government.  The vaccine is made in an identical fashion to the seasonal flu vaccine in eggs.  The vaccine does not contain an adjuvant.  Both inactivate (shot) vaccine and live-attenuated (nasal sniff) vaccines will be available.  Single dose syringes do not include thimerosal.

For whom will the 2009 H1N1 vaccine be recommended?
The initial target groups for the vaccine include:

  • Pregnant women
  • Persons who live with or provide care for infants aged <6 months
  • Health care and emergency medical services personnel who have direct contact with patients or infectious material
  • Children aged 6 months to 4 years
  • Children and adolescents aged 5 to 18 years who have medical conditions that put them at higher risk for influenza-related complications


As additional vaccine becomes available, vaccine is recommended for the following groups:

  • Pregnant women
  • Persons who live with or provide care for infants aged <6 months
  • Health care and emergency medical services personnel
  • Children aged 6 months to 24 years
  • Anyone aged 25 to 64 years who have medical conditions that put them at higher risk for influenza-related complications


Additional information is available from the following web sites:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:  http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/

N.C. Department of Health and Human Services:  http://www.epi.state.nc.us/epi/gcdc/flu.html

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:  http://www.pandemicflu.gov/psa/contest/2009/index.html

 

Document Actions