2009 H1N1 Flu and You

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Brian E. Reddish
  • 55th Medical Group Public Health Office
The 55th Medical Group Public Health Office provides the following facts regarding the H1N1 strain of influenza. With knowledge and understanding, individuals and families can increase their chances of staying healthy during the upcoming months.

What is 2009 H1N1?

2009 H1N1 is a new influenza virus causing illness in people. This contagious virus is spreading from person-to-person worldwide, in much the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread.

How does 2009 H1N1 virus spread?

Like the seasonal flu, H1N1 is spread from infected people through air droplets often produced by coughing or sneezing. In addition, people may become infected by touching something contaminated (such as a surface or object) and then touching their mouth or nose.

What are the signs and symptoms of this virus?

The symptoms of the 2009 H1N1 flu virus include fever and either cough or sore throat. Some patients have also complained of runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. A significant number of people who have been infected with this virus also have reported diarrhea and vomiting. Most people who have become ill with this new virus have recovered without requiring medical treatment.

How long can an infected person spread this virus to others?

People may be able to infect others from 24 hours before getting sick to five to seven days after symptoms are gone. Some research may stretch this out to 12 days, especially in those who are immunosuppressed.

What can I do to prevent the spread of the virus?

· 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 for 15 - 20 seconds with soap and warm water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Some alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

· Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

· Try to avoid close and prolonged contact with sick people. Close contact is defined as less than six feet.

· If you are sick with flu-like illness, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention 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 while sick.

What should I do if I get sick?

· 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 a fever-reducing medicine.

· Stay away from others as much as possible to keep from making others sick. This means avoiding normal activities, including work, school, travel, shopping, social events and public gatherings.

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 two to eight hours after being deposited on the surface.

What household cleaning should be done to prevent the spread of influenza virus?

To prevent the spread of influenza virus it is important to keep surfaces (especially bedside tables, surfaces in the bathroom, kitchen counters, and toys for children) clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant. Make sure to follow the directions on the product label.

When can I receive the H1N1 vaccine?

This year's seasonal influenza vaccine is already available for most servicemembers and their families. The H1N1 vaccine is a different vaccine and will be available for high-risk dependents through supplies distributed by the state of Nebraska. Initially, it will only be made available to designated individuals. (See attached information box.) Since active duty members will receive H1N1 vaccine through Department of Defense sources, they may receive it several weeks before their family members.

Eligible dependents for initial H1N1 vaccinations (when available) are:

Pregnant women
People who live with or care for infants younger than 6 months of age
Health care personnel with direct patient contact
Children 6 months through 4 years of age
Children 5 through 18 years of age who have chronic medical conditions

For more information about the H1N1 flue and vaccine, visit:

· http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/
· http://www.flu.gov/

For more information about H1N1 influenza or the seasonal influenza vaccine, contact your local primary care physician or the Public Health office at 294-9361.