What is influenza A?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there are two main types of influenza (flu) virus: Types A and B. Influenza A and B viruses are responsible for seasonal flu epidemics each year. Influenza A viruses can be broken down into sub-types. Over the course of a flu season, different types (A & B) and subtypes of influenza A viruses can circulate and cause illness.
H1N1 (previously known as "swine flu") is a sub-type of influenza type A.
How is influenza A spread?
Influenza A is spread through direct contact or droplets and affects the respiratory system. It is spread through "shedding" -- every time you cough, sneeze, talk -- you "shed" droplets. If someone coughs or sneezes on you, or if someone sneezes on a table and you put your hand on the table, and then you put that hand near your face, you could potentially become infected.
What are the symptoms of influenza A?
Symptoms include sudden onset, meaning you were fine one minute and suddenly feel very sick; a fever of more than 100 degrees, chills, body aches, cough and sometimes headaches.
Should you be experiencing all of these symptoms, not just one or two of them?
Generally, yes. It's not just a runny nose from a cold. The main things with flu are fever and sudden onset. You are OK one minute and then suddenly ill. You know you're really sick -- you know it's more than a cold.
What should you do if you think you are sick?
The treatments for H1N1 and other types of influenza A are the same.
The CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) Stay away from others as much as possible to keep from making others sick. Staying at home means that you should not leave your home except to seek medical care. This means avoiding normal activities, including work, school, travel, shopping, social events, and public gatherings.
Antiviral treatments -- including Relenza and Tamiflu -- might also be prescribed to treat some cases of H1N1 and other types of influenza A. Generally, such medications are recommended only for those individuals at high risk (have underlying conditions), or in severe cases.
What precautions can help prevent infection?
The CDC recommends 4 main ways you may keep from getting sick with the flu:
- Practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective. Use a product that has at least 60 percent alcohol as the active ingredient.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow or shoulder; not into your hands.
- Stay home or your place of residence if you are sick for at least 24 hours after you no longer have a fever (100 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius) or signs of a fever (have chills, feel very warm, have a flushed appearance, or are sweating). This should be determined without the use of fever-reducing medications (any medicine that contains ibuprofen or acetaminophen). Staying away from others while sick can prevent others from getting sick too. Ask a roommate, friend, or family member to check up on you and to bring you food and supplies if needed.
- Talk to your health care provider to find out if you should be vaccinated for seasonal flu and/or 2009 H1N1 flu. Information about 2009 H1N1 flu vaccination can be found at www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination. Information about seasonal flu vaccine can be found at www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm.
For more prevention tips and information on what to do if you contractinfluenza A, please visit the university's H1N1 Web site.