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H1N1 Swine Influenza: Frequently Asked Questions

2009-04-30
Q. What is H1N1 swine influenza?
A. H1N1 Swine influenza is a variant of normal seasonal influenza that contains bits of viruses from birds, pigs, and humans. People with H1N1 swine influenza experience many of the same symptoms as with regular seasonal influenza.
Q. How severe is H1N1 swine influenza?
A. The majority of cases of H1N1 swine influenza reported in Canada and the United States have been mild. Some of the cases reported in Mexico have been more severe, generally involving healthy young people who rapidly progressed from mild illness to severe respiratory distress. Some illnesses have resulted in death. The Public Health Agency of Canada has been working with the World Health Organization, and Mexican and American health officials to determine why cases in Mexico appear to be more severe.
Q. What are the symptoms for H1N1 swine influenza?
A. The symptoms of H1N1 swine influenza are similar to other strains of the influenza virus, and include:
fever, headache, cough, muscle aches, sore throat, weakness or fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and
chills
 
Q. How is H1N1 swine influenza spread?
A. H1N1 swine influenza is likely spread from person to person via the respiratory route, the same as seasonal influenza. Coughs and sneezes release the germs into the air where they can be breathed-in by other people. Germs can also rest on hard surfaces like counters and door knobs, where they can be picked up on hands and transmitted to the respiratory system when a person touches their mouth or nose. Influenza can be passed to others up to 24 hours before illness starts. It appears that swine influenza can be spread for up to 7 days after illness starts. Children may spread the virus for longer periods.
Q. Where should people call if they think they might have H1N1 swine influenza?
A. Anyone who has returned from Mexico within the last two weeks and is suffering the H1N1 swine influenza symptoms should contact TeleHealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 before contacting their healthcare provider.
 
Q. What should I do if I’ve been to an area where H1N1 swine influenza has been reported and I have symptoms of a respiratory illness?
A. If you have recently travelled to an area affected by H1N1 swine influenza and are feeling ill enough that you need to seek medical attention, be sure to call ahead to discuss your symptoms and travel history. If symptoms require you to go to a hospital or urgent care clinic, tell the hospital or clinic immediately that you have travelled recently to an area where H1N1 swine influenza has occurred. A travel history alone does not warrant seeking medical care if you do not feel ill enough to require it.
Q. How can I avoid getting H1N1 swine influenza?
A. You can decrease your risk of getting H1N1 swine influenza by being vigilant in taking regular measures to prevent the spread of any infectious disease:
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or the inside of your elbow
Properly wash your hands as frequently as possible, for at least 20-seconds every time you wash them
Stay home when you are sick until the day after all of your symptoms are gone
 
Q. Is there treatment for H1N1 swine influenza?
A. H1N1 swine influenza appears to be resistant to amantadine. Early results have show that two antiviral medications, Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamavir), work to combat H1N1 swine influenza. These drugs are currently only being used to treat severe H1N1 swine influenza cases if treatment is started within two days of symptom onset. Mild illness does not require treatment.
Q. Is there a vaccine for H1N1 swine influenza?
A. No, there is currently no vaccine available for H1N1 swine influenza. Once the pandemic strain has been confirmed, it may take up to 6 months for an effective vaccine to be developed and tested. Health Canada has a contract with a vaccine manufacturer for vaccine production in the event of a pandemic. The contract covers the production of enough pandemic vaccine for all Canadians.
Q. What should I do if someone I know is coming to Canada from an area affected by H1N1 swine influenza?
A. There are no restrictions, requirements for quarantine, or any need to keep away from work, schools, or public places for individuals travelling from areas where H1N1 swine influenza has been detected. If someone coming from an affected area becomes ill in Canada with signs and symptoms of H1N1 swine influenza and requires medical attention, be sure to call ahead to discuss their symptoms and travel history. If symptoms require them to go to a hospital or urgent care clinic, tell the hospital or clinic immediately that the person has recently come from an area where swine influenza has occurred.
Q. Should I travel to Mexico or one of the other areas affected by H1N1 swine influenza?
A. The federal government, through the Public Health Agency of Canada and Foreign Affairs, is responsible for issuing travel advice to Canadians. Travel advisories can be found online at the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website.
 
Q. Can I get H1N1 swine influenza from eating pork?
A. No. Properly cooking pork destroys the virus, if it was present in the pork.
Q. Where can I get specific information on H1N1 swine influenza and the outbreak?
A. For the latest information on H1N1 swine Influenza, visit the links to public health and infectious disease agencies-the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, and the World Health Organization—from the H1N1 swine influenza section on their website.
KFL&A Public Health has also created a section on their website specific for H1N1 swine influenza where information will be updated as frequently as it changes and becomes available from provincial and federal counterparts.