H1N1: Frequently Asked Questions

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Below are some of the more common questions we expect regarding H1N1. Where available, reference sources are linked so you can read more detail on the subject.

What is H1N1 (swine) flu?
Novel H1N1 (referred to as "swine flu" early on) is a new influenza virus causing illness in people. This new virus was first detected in people in the United States in April 2009. Other countries, including but not limited to Mexico and Canada, have reported people sick with this new virus. This virus is spreading from person-to-person, probably in much the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread. An updated case count of confirmed novel H1N1 flu infections in the United States is kept at http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/update.htm.
Source: CDC's Novel H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu) and You.

What are the signs and symptoms of H1N1 (swine) flu in people?
The symptoms of novel H1N1 flu virus in people are similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. A significant number of people who have been infected with novel H1N1 flu virus also have reported diarrhea and vomiting. 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. 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 (e.g., taking immunosuppressive medications, infected with HIV).

If you live in areas where people have been identified with novel H1N1 flu and become ill with influenza-like symptoms, including fever, body aches, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, nausea, or vomiting or diarrhea, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people. Staying at home means that you should not leave your home except to seek medical care. This means avoiding normal activities, including work, school, travel, shopping, social events, and public gatherings.

If you have a severe illness or you are at high risk for flu complications, contact your health care provider or seek medical care. Your health care provider will determine whether flu testing or treatment is needed.

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 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

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

Sources: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/sick.htm and http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/qa.htm.

What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?
We are told by the CDC that the U.S. government is working closely with manufacturers to take steps in the process to manufacture a novel H1N1 vaccine. Working together with scientists in the public and private sector, the CDC has isolated the new H1N1 virus and modified the virus so that it can be used to make hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine. Vaccine manufacturers are now using these materials to begin vaccine production. Making vaccine is a multi-step process which takes several months to complete. Candidate vaccines will be tested in clinical trials over the next few months.

On July 29, 2009, the CDC issued a press release on vaccine status along with recommendations for vaccine administration. The release included details on the planned distribution to key populations including those who are at higher risk of disease or complications, those who are likely to come in contact with novel H1N1, and those who could infect young infants. When the vaccine is first available, the CDC advisors have recommended that programs and providers try to vaccinate:

  • pregnant women,
  • people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age,
  • health care and emergency services personnel,
  • persons between the ages of 6 months through 24 years of age, and
  • people from ages 25 through 64 years who are at higher risk for novel H1N1 because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.

See http://www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/2009/r090729b.htm for the full release. For more details on the status of a vaccine and other available medications that may assist in treating symptoms, see http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/public/vaccination_qa_pub.htm.

In the interim, you can take steps that can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza. These include:

  • 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 or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Stay home if you are sick for 7 days after your symptoms begin or until you have been symptom-free for 24 hours, whichever is longer. This is to keep from infecting others and spreading the virus further.

Other important actions that you can take are:

  • Monitor your e-mail and the College intranet for updates.
  • Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures.
  • Be prepared in case you get sick and need to stay home for a week or so; a supply of over-the-counter medicines, alcohol-based hand rubs, tissues and other related items might be useful and help avoid the need to make trips out in public while you are sick and contagious.

Source: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/qa.htm.

What to do if you think you become sick?
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, including avoiding travel and not going 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, especially people at increased risk of severe illness from influenza. With seasonal flu, 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. People infected with the novel H1N1 are likely to have similar patterns of infectiousness as with seasonal flu.

If you are a student, notify Dean Farley about your condition. He can be reached at (727) 562-7808 or e-mailing mfarley@law.stetson.edu. If you are an employee, notify Human Resources by calling (727) 562-7345 or e-mailing hr@law.stetson.edu. You should plan to seek medical care. Medical clearance is required to return to school/work and can be required as part of fitness assessments in suspected cases.

If I have a family member at home who is sick with novel H1N1 flu, should I go to school/work?
Employees who are well but who have an ill family member at home with the H1N1 flu can go to work as usual. These employees should monitor their health every day, and take everyday precautions including washing their hands often with soap and water, especially after they cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective. If they become ill, they should notify their supervisor and stay home. Employees who have an underlying medical condition or who are pregnant should call their health care provider for advice, because they might need to receive influenza antiviral drugs to prevent illness. Learn more about how to take care of someone who is ill in Taking Care of a Sick Person in Your Home, available at http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/guidance_homecare.htm.
Source: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/qa.htm
See also, General Business and Workplace Guidance for the Prevention of Novel Influenza A (H1N1) Flu in Workers, and Interim CDC Guidance for Institutions of Higher Education and Post-secondary Educational Institutions in Response to Human Infections with Novel Influenza A (H1N1) Virus.

How long can an infected person spread H1N1 (swine) flu to others?
At the current time, the CDC believes that this virus has the same properties in terms of spread as seasonal flu viruses. With seasonal flu, studies have shown that 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. The CDC is studying the virus and its capabilities to try to learn more and will provide more information as it becomes available.
Source: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/qa.htm.

Stay Informed and Learn More
We recommend the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a reliable source of information regarding the H1N1 crisis: H1N1 Resources page.

Last updated July 30, 2009.