What You Need to Know about H1N1 Flu

As flu season arrives, it's important to be educated about the H1N1 flu virus (also called swine flu), how to protect yourself from it, and what to do if you get sick. Student Health Services Staff Physician Dr. John Tsai and Ty Ramsower, coordinator of health promotion & outreach, answer some frequently asked questions.

Q: How is the H1N1 flu transmitted? Is it the same thing as the swine flu?

A: The H1N1 virus spreads the same way that seasonal flu does, mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something, such as a surface or object, with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

Q: How is H1N1 different from the seasonal flu?

A: H1N1 and the seasonal flu are both influenza viruses. H1N1 is different in that it is a new or novel influenza virus that has not previously circulated in humans.

Q: H1N1 has been labeled a pandemic. What does that mean?

A: A pandemic means that the H1N1 infection is global in distribution, not that this flu is more dangerous or lethal than other flu viruses.

Q: What are some ways to prevent myself from getting it?

A: 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. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way. Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

Q: Should I get a flu vaccine and an H1N1 vaccine?

A: Those who want to reduce their risk of getting the flu should get the vaccines. This includes pregnant women, people who live with or care for young children, people between the ages of 6 months and 24 years old, and people who have chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.

Q: Help! I think I have the flu. What do I do now?

A: Stay away from others as much as possible to avoid spreading the illness. Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or other necessities. This means that you should not leave your home except to seek medical care. Refrain from public activities, such as work, school, travel, shopping, social events and gatherings. If you are a student and live on campus, you can contact Student Health Services and your residence life staff member for support.

Q: When should I go to Student Health Services, the hospital or call a doctor?

A: 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    
  • Flulike symptoms that improve but then return with fever and a worse cough    

Q: What if my roommate, family member or friend has the flu?

A: You should avoid people who have the flu. If you come into contact with a sick person, follow these steps:

  • Avoid being face-to-face with the sick person.   
  • Clean your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub after you touch the sick person or handle used tissues or laundry.   
  • If you're a student living on campus and need support, contact your residence life staff member.  

Q: If I get H1N1 this year, will I have immunity from getting it in the future?

A: Probably, but this is still being studied and the answer is not completely known.

More information about the H1N1 flu is available at www.cpp.edu/flu, www.flu.gov and www.dsa.cpp.edu/shs/.