H1N1 Influenza (Swine Flu)

October 18-24, 2009 is International Infection Prevention Week (IIPW). IIPW is an annual event to raise awareness about the importance of infection prevention and what consumers can do to guard against infections.  As H1N1 influenza continues to spread and more people become infected with the virus, APIC’s message for IIPW 2009 focuses on how consumers can stay healthy during this flu season.

Background on H1N1
The 2009 H1N1 influenza virus (previously called swine flu) is a new strain of influenza virus. It is very contagious and has spread to many areas of the United States and other countries resulting in a pandemic.

It is believed that the H1N1 flu spreads the same way that seasonal flu does. These viruses are transmitted mainly from person-to-person as a result of exposure to people who have flu like symptoms who are coughing and/or sneezing. People can also become infected by touching something that has flu virus on it and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

Symptoms of H1N1 flu are similar to regular seasonal flu and include: fever, cough, sore throat, sneezing, body aches, headaches, chills and fatigue. Some persons have also reported diarrhea and vomiting.

2009 H1N1 Influenza Vaccine 
Getting vaccinated is the single best way to protect against influenza illness. H1N1 flu vaccines are now available. They are made the same way and by the same manufacturers as seasonal flu vaccine. This vaccine will not prevent influenza-like illnesses caused by other viruses; therefore, you must get both the seasonal influenza vaccine and the H1N1 influenza vaccine. To find out where to get seasonal or H1N1 vaccines, visit http://www.flu.gov/.

There are two kinds of 2009 H1N1 vaccines available:

  • 2009 H1N1 flu shot (inactivated influenza shot) – This is just like the annual flu shot that is given with a needle; it has killed virus in it and is injected into the muscle. One form of the vaccine contains a preservative called thimerosal; another form is preservative free. For more information, visit the CDC’s website:  http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-inact-h1n1.pdf
  • 2009 H1N1 nasal spray flu vaccine (Live Attenuated Intranasal Vaccine — LAIV). This is a weakened virus in a vaccine that is sprayed into the nose. Certain groups may not get the nasal spray vaccine: pregnant women, people with certain long-term illnesses such as diabetes, asthma etc., children from 6 months to 2 years old, and adults 50 years or older. If you cannot get the nasal spray flu vaccine, you should get the H1N1 flu shot. For more information, please see:  http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-laiv-h1n1.pdf and  http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/nasalspray_qa.htm  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have identified ways to stay healthy and guard against the flu:

  • Cough into your sleeve or 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 and should be used frequently.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people (stay 3-6 feet away).
  • If you get sick, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

APIC reminds everyone: Do not visit patients in the hospital or any other healthcare facility if you think you may have the flu.