. Pandemic Information
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Pandemic Information Print

What is H1N1 Flu?

(A)H1N1 is a new novel virus that has its origins in swine. H1N1That’s why initially when the virus emerged in the spring of 2009, the resulting illness from H1N1 infection was called “The Swine Flu.”  Medical experts are now calling the illness H1N1 Flu. The virus changed either through mutation, genetic reassortment (swapping genetic material with other viruses), or both. H1N1 is now readily passed from person to person. Because it’s so new, most people have no immunity.  But there is evidence that suggests people 65 years of age and older may have some immunity since that age group has a lesser chance of suffering from complications associated with the illness. This was observed by the CDC in the spring when H1N1 Flu first emerged.

H1N1 is different from familiar viruses that cause seasonal influenza each year. Therefore the routine flu shot you get each fall will not protect you from the H1N1 virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that most people receive the seasonal vaccine since this will help the overall health of individuals. Being healthy can assist an individual in enduring a bout with H1N1 Flu. Click here to see who should and should not get the Seasonal Flu Shot. The CDC anticipates a new H1N1 vaccine will begin to be administered in mid October, 2009 to PRIORITY GROUPS that are considered especially vulnerable to the disease.

Who is in the PRIORITY GROUPS?

According to the CDC, five groups of people are considered most vulnerable to complications from the H1N1 virus and should consider getting the vaccination for H1N1 flu when it first becomes available. The CDC has identified the following groups as PRIORITY GROUPS for receiving the vaccination. Initial vaccination efforts will focus on individuals within these groups since they are at greatest risk of complications from H1N1 Flu.

  • Pregnant women
  • Persons six months to 24 years old 
  • Healthcare providers and EMS personnel 
  • Parents, household members or caregivers of children under 6 months 
  • Those under 65 with certain underlying medical conditions

TO READ MORE ON PRIORITY GROUPS CLICK HERE. One population typically at risk for seasonal flu is people 65 years of age and older. But that’s not the case with H1N1 Flu, they do not seem to be vulnerable to complications from H1N1. However, as vaccine supply and demand for vaccine among younger age groups is being met, the CDC says programs and providers should offer vaccination to people 65 and older.

How do I know if it’s a mild or severe case of H1N1 Flu?

“Mild” H1N1 Flu symptoms are similar to Seasonal Influenza and include: fever above 100 degrees, coughing, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, chills, fatigue, diarrhea and vomiting (not normal). The CDC has released the following list that details symptoms that indicate URGENT MEDICAL ATTENTION IS NEEDED:

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


How can I protect myself and my family?

The ways to protect yourself and your family from H1N1 are time tested and proven to work, but do require vigilance. It is important to practice good hand hygiene, coughing and sneezing etiquette, and employ thorough cleaning practices. The virus is spread by direct contact with respiratory droplets from an infected person. Viruses in droplets can live on hard surfaces up to 8 hours. Here is a short list of things you can do to keep from catching H1N1 and stop its spread:

Hygiene & Etiquette

  • Wash your hands FREQUENTLY.
  • Wash hands for 20 seconds. Scrub all parts of your hands (including backs, between fingers, under nails) with a soapy lather for at least 20 seconds (as long as it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice).
  • Use alcohol-based sanitizers (60%-95% alcohol concentration) only when soap and water are not available. Follow up with hand washing as soon as possible. Exercise caution when administering hand sanitizers to children. 
  • When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with the bend in your arm and not your hands. 
  • Avoid touching you eyes, nose, and mouth without first washing your hands.
  • Use disposable tissues and discard immediately. Do not use a handkerchief. Follow up with hand washing.
  • Avoid crowds, especially indoors. 
  • If you have the flu, stay home until your fever has subsided for 24 hours WITHOUT fever reducing medicines such as Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen. 
  • Avoid contact with family members when ill. TO READ MORE ABOUT CARING FOR A LOVED ONE WITH H1N1 FLU CLICK HERE.
  • Call your family doctor right away if you begin exhibiting symptoms consistent with the flu.

Infection Control
Below is a table of hard surface items that could easily become contaminated with H1N1 virus. This list is not exhaustive, it is meant to simply raise awareness of the common items we use every day that could spread H1N1 Flu unless routinely cleaned and disinfected.

 Common Items
 Office  & School Home
 Light Switches Keyboards  Refrigerator Handle
 Door Knobs Mouse Cupboard Handles
 Remote Controls Copiers/Printers Coffee Tables
 Faucets Fax Machines End Tables
 Toilet Handles Vending Machines Night Stands
 Telephones Desk Tops Counter Tops
 Pens Drinking Fountains  Toys

How do I disinfect my house to make it safe?

To prevent the spread of influenza virus it is important to keep surfaces clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant according to directions on the product label. Several chemical germicides, including chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, DETERGENTS (SOAP), iodophors (iodine-based antiseptics), and alcohols are effective against human influenza viruses if used in proper concentration for a sufficient length of time. Influenza virus is also destroyed by heat (167-212°F [75-100°C]).

Linens, eating utensils, and dishes belonging to those who are sick do not need to be cleaned separately, but importantly these items should not be shared without washing thoroughly first. Linens (such as bed sheets and towels) should be washed by using household laundry soap and tumbled dry on a hot setting. Individuals should avoid "hugging" laundry prior to washing it to prevent contaminating themselves. Individuals should wash their hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub immediately after handling dirty laundry. Eating utensils should be washed either in a dishwasher or by hand with water and soap.

Important Links

Whether you wish to gather information on business planning or simply want to do some research on the soon to be available H1N1 vaccine, there is a wealth of information available online to assist you with your own H1N1 Flu Plan. If you’d like more information, please visit the websites listed below by clicking on the links provided for your convenience.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Pennsylvania Swine Flu Information
World Health Organization
Downloadable Swine Flu PDF
2009 Pandemic Brochure
York/Adams Metropolitan Medical Response System (YAMMRS)
CDCs NEW Flu Flyer For Parents


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