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What is H1N1 or Swine flu and how is it different than seasonal flu?
Seasonal and H1N1 flu are members of the influenza class of viruses. H1N1 is an influenza virus that has animal, avian, and human genes. It contains genetic information that most humans have never been exposed to; this creates the potential for an illness that can infect more people than seasonal flu, especially people under 40 years of age. Seasonal flu is a group of viruses established in the human population that change (mutate) year to year and causes human illness mostly in the winter season. H1N1 flu is causing more serious illness among children and younger people, whereas the seasonal flu is typically more severe among older people.

Can you get the H1N1 flu from eating pork?
No. H1N1 cannot be transmitted by eating pork.

What are the symptoms of the H1N1 flu?
The symptoms of the H1N1 flu are similar to those of the seasonal flu. H1N1 is a respiratory disease, and the symptoms nearly always include a fever and cough. Other symptoms may be:
        • Sore throat
        • Body aches
        • Headache
        • Chills and fatigue
        • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea (in some cases).

How will I know if I have H1N1 or the seasonal flu?
Most people will not know which type of flu they have. Both types of flu produce the same symptoms. Even those individuals who see their doctor will not know what type of flu they have because the test to confirm H1N1 can’t be done at a doctor’s office. Rapid tests done in doctors’ offices are not consistently accurate and cannot confirm the type of flu. Testing for H1N1 is done only for those who are hospitalized or in cases where death is suspected due to H1N1.

Is H1N1 flu more dangerous than the seasonal flu?
For most healthy adults, the H1N1 virus does not appear to be more severe than seasonal influenza. H1N1 appears to be more severe for certain groups of people, including pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions including heart, lung, neurological, and immune diseases, and children less than two years of age. The seasonal flu is typically more severe among older people.

How can I keep from getting the H1N1 or seasonal flu?
The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccination each year. This year two vaccinations will be needed, one for H1N1 and one for seasonal flu. Other precautions one can take to reduce the risk of getting the flu are:
        • Wash hands often with soap and water
        • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
        • Try to avoid close contact with sick people
        • Don’t share food or objects with people who are sick.

How do I take care of myself if I think I have the H1N1 or seasonal flu?
Stay home and rest if you have flu symptoms. Stay home until you have been fever free without taking fever-reducing medication for at least 24 hours. Other steps you can take if you get the flu include:
        • Drink plenty of fluids
        • Take pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control fever
        • Minimize contact with others.
        • Always cover your coughs and sneezes
        • Wash your hands frequently, don’t share food, objects or shake hands with others.

How do I know when I should call the doctor or seek medical care for the flu?
People who fall into the high risk groups including pregnant women, people with chronic diseases, and children less than two years of age, should call the doctor as soon as they have any flu symptoms. Most healthy people who do not fall into these risk groups will not need any medical treatment to recover from the flu. You must use your judgment to determine when to call or go see your health care provider. The doctor should be called immediately if a sick person has rapid or difficulty breathing, blue or gray skin, chest or abdominal pressure, dizziness, confusion, extreme irritability or drowsiness, severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea, or if flu symptoms improve but then return.

Do I need medications to recover from the flu?
People who fall into higher risk groups including pregnant women, people with chronic diseases, and children under two, should ask their doctor about the need for anti-viral or other medications when they have fever and cough. Most people will not need special medications to recover from the flu. Comfort measures such as acetaminophen, decongestants, and cough drops may help you feel better. Do not use cold medicines for children under 12 years of age. Do not give aspirin to children or teenagers who have the flu as this can cause a rare but serious illness called Reye syndrome.

What should I do to prevent the spread of the flu if I’m caring for someone with the flu?
To help prevent the spread of the flu when you are caring for someone who is sick:
        • Keep the sick person in a room separate from the common areas of the house.
        • Keep others in the home away from the person who is sick.
        • You and others should stay at least six feet away from the sick person if possible.
        • Consider having the sick person wear a face mask.
        • People who are sick should cough or sneeze into a tissue or their elbow joint.
        • Caregivers should wash hands thoroughly with soap and water each time they enter and leave the sick room.
        • Clean surfaces and objects touched by the sick person with routine household cleaners.
        • Do not share food, dishes, towels or other objects used by the sick person with others.

Does the seasonal flu vaccine provide protection against the H1N1 flu?
No. The vaccine for the seasonal flu does not provide protection against the H1N1 virus. There will be separate vaccines for H1N1 flu and seasonal flu.

Who should get a seasonal flu vaccination?
CDC recommends that people who should get vaccinated each year are:
        • Children aged six months up to their 19th birthday
        • Pregnant women
        • People 50 years of age and older
        • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
        • People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
        • People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu.

Where can I get a seasonal flu vaccination?
It is best to go to your regular health care provider to obtain flu vaccinations. The Public Health Department will be offering seasonal flu vaccination clinics. The availability of seasonal flu vaccine will impact the number of vaccination clinics.

When should I get a seasonal flu vaccination?
It is best to get the seasonal flu vaccine as soon as it is available.

Who should get the H1N1 flu vaccination?
The CDC has prioritized people at higher risk for severe H1N1 illness to receive the H1N1 vaccine first. Tentative high risk categories for receiving the H1N1 flu vaccine are:
        • 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
        • People from ages 25 through 64 years who have chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems
However, if the supply of vaccine is limited, there may be more restrictions on who is eligible to receive the vaccine first. Eventually, everyone will be able to receive the vaccine when the supply is adequate, i.e. all people 25 years old and older.

Is there more than one type of H1N1 vaccine?
The H1N1 vaccine is being produced in two forms: the H1N1 FluMist nasal spray and the injection or shot form. The nasal spray form is recommended for healthy children and young adults. It appears that children under 10 will need two doses of the vaccine, about one month apart. The injection form of the vaccine is recommended for children and adults of all ages. Adults will only need one vaccination.

When will the H1N1 flu vaccine be available?
Limited quantities of the nasal spray vaccine for children have been sent to doctors. The injection vaccine is supposed to be available in early November. Specific plans about distribution and provision of the H1N1 vaccine will be provided when this information is available.

Where can I get the H1N1 flu vaccine?
Your usual medical provider is the best source for all vaccinations. The Public Health Department will also offer H1N1 vaccination clinics after the vaccine becomes available.

Will the H1N1 vaccine make me sick?
Reactions to the H1N1 flu vaccine are expected to be similar to reactions seen with the seasonal flu vaccine. Usually there is no noticeable reaction. Soreness at the injection site is the most common side effect. In rare cases people may have a low-grade fever or body aches for a day or two after being vaccinated.

Since the H1N1 vaccine is new and was created quickly, is it tested and safe?
The H1N1 vaccine was developed over a period of about five months which is the usual time spent producing flu vaccines. The vaccine was produced by the same companies following the same procedures used to make seasonal flu vaccines. The H1N1 vaccine has been tested more extensively than the typical seasonal flu vaccine. It is very safe.

Does the H1N1 vaccine contain mercury and is this a health risk?
Thimerosal is a mercury compound preservative used to prevent contamination in multi-dose vials of H1N1 vaccine for children over three years of age and adults. One dose contains less mercury than a tuna sandwich. The vaccine for children 6 months to 3 years of age does not contain thimerosal. The H1N1 FluMist nasal spray vaccine does not contain thimerosal. There is an adult form of the vaccine for pregnant women that is also thimerosal free.

Can I get the seasonal flu and H1N1 vaccines at the same time?
Both seasonal and H1N1 flu shots can be received in the same medical visit. It’s also possible to get one vaccine by injection and another by nasal spray at the same time. However, it is recommended that nasal spray vaccinations be taken four weeks apart.

What if I can’t afford the vaccination or medical care for the flu?
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department will provide vaccination and flu care services to eligible lower-income people for no cost.


For more information of pandemic influenza, send us an email at fluinfo@sbcphd.org or follow us on Twitter at SBCPublicHealth