"Swine Flu" or novel H1N1 influenza remains in the news headlines. With continued flu activity even throughout the summer months, national & state health experts expect to see increased influenza activity in schools as soon as they open in the fall.
How is it spread?
It's thought that novel influenza A (H1N1) flu spreads in the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread, mainly through the coughs and sneezes of people who are sick with the virus. But it may also be spread by touching infected objects and then touching your nose or mouth. Infection has been reported to cause a wide range of flu-like symptoms, including fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. In addition, many people also have reported nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea.
Who is at risk?
The high risk groups for novel H1N1 flu are not known at this time, but it's possible that they may be the same as for seasonal influenza usually seen in the fall and winter. People at higher risk of serious complications from seasonal flu include people age 65 years and older, children younger than 5 years old, pregnant women, people of any age with chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), and people who are immunosuppressed (such as many cancer patients).
State health officials note that one way to reduce the number of people who'll get this flu is to keep the "ill" separate from the "well" as much as possible.
What are symptoms?
If you are sick, you may be ill for a week or longer. Unless necessary for medical care, you should stay home and minimize contact with others. Avoid travel - even to work or school - for 7 days after your symptoms begin or until you have been symptom-free for 24 hours - whichever is longer. If you leave the house to seek medical care, wear a facemask, if available and tolerable, and cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue. In general, you should avoid contact with other people as much as possible to keep from spreading your illness. People may be contagious from one day before they develop symptoms to up to 7 days after they get sick. Children, especially younger children, might potentially be contagious for longer periods.
What can I do?
Stay informed and follow these common-sense guidelines:
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.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
If you are sick with a flu-like illness, stay home for 7 days after your symptoms begin or until you have been symptom-free for 24 hours - whichever is longer - except to seek medical care or for other necessities. Keep away from other household members as much as possible. This is to keep you from infecting others and spreading the virus further.
If you are sick and sharing a common space with other household members in your home, wear a facemask to help prevent spreading the virus to others.
Health officials will provide additional information as it becomes available. Visit the CDC H1N1 Flu website for the latest information.