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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What is H1N1 Flu?

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H1N1 Influenza A, or “swine flu”, is a new form of influenza caused by a mixture of Influenza A viruses from pigs, birds and humans. It was first identified in Mexico but has since spread to many countries in the world.

What are the symptoms?
The symptoms are similar to seasonal flu - sudden fever (over 38ºC) and cough, sore throat, headache, generalised aches and pains and shortness of breath although vomiting and diarrhoea may also be present. Young people are being affected more than older people.

How is this H1N1 flu spread?
It is spread from person to person in the same way seasonal flu spreads: through droplets released when a person coughs, sneezes or talks. If these get into a healthy person's nose or mouth, the person can get infected. Sometimes people get infected when they touch an object with flu virus on it, then touch their mouth
or nose. Flu viruses can live on shared objects (doorknobs, keyboards, counters, etc.) for up to 48 hours. They can live on clothes or materials for up to 12 hours.

What drugs are available for treatment?
Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and Zanamivir (Relenza) are currently effective in treating the illness. However, so far, most cases have been mild and have not required treatment with antiviral medication

Is it safe to eat pork and pork products?
Yes. H1N1 influenza has not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating properly handled and prepared pork or other products derived from pigs. The H1N1 influenza virus is killed by cooking temperatures of 160°F/70°C.
Is there a human vaccine to protect from swine influenza?
Vaccines have been developed that protect against the H1N1 “swine” Influenza. It is to be hoped that all Embassy people will be protected from the disease by being immunized.

What can be done to reduce the risk of catching flu? (Risk Reduction Measures)
• Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and discard into a bin. Use upper sleeve if tissue not available.
• Be aware of viruses possibly living on shared surfaces e.g. door knobs, lift buttons, microwaves etc – clean them frequently with soap and water, detergent or alcohol. This will kill the H1N1 influenza virus.
• Wear gloves when cleaning shared items, discard after use and wash hands.
• Wash hands with soap and water frequently and thoroughly.
• Avoid close contact with people who appear unwell and who have fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and diarrhoea / vomiting.
• Practise good health habits including adequate sleep, eating nutritious food and keeping physically active.

What preparations can be made at home now?
Keep stocks of items such as:
• Thermometer – the diagnosis of H1N1 Flu includes a temperature recorded above 38ºC.
• Tissues and soap or medicated alcohol based hand gel.
• Medications: Paracetamol, throat lozenges, decongestants.
• Food supplies for one week in case household members require home isolation.
• Masks, if available

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