H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu) and You

Novel H1N1 Flu What is H1N1 (swine flu)? 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 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. Why is this new H1N1 virus sometimes called “swine flu”? This virus was originally referred to as “swine flu” because laboratory testing showed that many of the genes in this new virus were very similar to influenza viruses that normally occur in pigs in North America. But further study has shown that this new virus is very different from what normally circulates in North American pigs. It has two genes from flu viruses that normally circulate in pigs in Europe and Asia and avian genes and human genes. Scientists call this a “quadruple reassortant” virus. Novel H1N1 Flu in Humans Are there human infections with this H1N1 virus in the U.S.? Yes. Cases of human infection with this H1N1 influenza virus were first confirmed in the U.S. in Southern California and near Guadalupe County, Texas. The outbreak intensified rapidly from that time and more and more states have been reporting cases of illness from this virus. An updated case count of confirmed novel H1N1 flu infections in the United States is kept at http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/investigation.htm. CDC and local and state health agencies are working together to investigate this situation. Is this new H1N1 virus contagious? CDC has determined that this new H1N1 virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. However, at this time, it is not known how easily the virus spreads between people. What are the signs and symptoms of this virus in people? The symptoms of this new 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 this virus also have reported diarrhea and vomiting. Also, like seasonal flu, severe illnesses and death has occurred as a result of illness associated with this virus. How severe is illness associated with this new H1N1 virus? It’s not known at this time how severe this virus will be in the general population. CDC is studying the medical histories of people who have been infected with this virus to determine whether some people may be at greater risk from infection, serious illness or hospitalization from the virus. In seasonal flu, there are certain people that are at higher risk of serious flu-related complications. This includes people 65 years and older, children younger than five years old, pregnant women, and people of any age with chronic medical conditions. It’s unknown at this time whether certain groups of people are at greater risk of serious flu-related complications from infection with this new virus. CDC also is conducting laboratory studies to see if certain people might have natural immunity to this virus, depending on their age. How does this new H1N1 virus spread? Spread of this H1N1 virus is thought to be happening in the same way that seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing by people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. How long can an infected person spread this virus to others? At the current time, 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. CDC is studying the virus and its capabilities to try to learn more and will provide more information as it becomes available. *Note: Much of the information in this document is based on studies and past experience with seasonal (human) influenza. CDC believes the information applies to the new H1N1 (swine) viruses as well, but studies on this virus are ongoing to learn more about its characteristics. This document will be updated as new information becomes available. Visit: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/qa.htm To read full article.