Flu Swine-Variant (H1N1)

In April 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed an unusual influenza virus outbreak. Since that time cases of Swine-Variant (H1N1) Flu have been identified throughout the United States and the world. In Ontario County, we have been doing active surveillance for Swine Flu (looking for cases) since April and as of June 3, 2009 we have confirmed H1N1 influenza cases in Ontario County.

What is H1N1 flu?

Swine Influenza, also called swine flu, is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses. Outbreaks of swine flu happen regularly in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but sometimes human infections occur. Most commonly, human cases of swine flu happen in people who are around pigs but it is possible for swine flu viruses to spread from person to person.

How soon will I get sick if exposed to the flu?
The time from when a person is exposed to flu virus to when symptoms begin is about one to four days, with an average of about two days.

How long is a person with flu virus contagious?

The period when an infected person is contagious depends on the age and health of the person. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others from 1 day prior to onset of symptoms to 5 days after they first become ill. Some may be contagious for longer than a week.

What are the signs and symptoms of swine flu in people?

Symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular seasonal human influenza. They include:
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
Some people have reported having diarrhea and vomiting. Just as seasonal flu, swine flu can vary in severity from mild to severe and may cause worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.

What do people need to know and do if they become ill?

Most people recover without difficulty. If anyone is ill with flu-like symptoms (see the list above) they should stay home from work or school. Follow recommendations for seasonal flu; drink plenty of fluids, get lots of rest and notify your doctor.

Prevention for swine influenza is the same as for any other upper respiratory infection:
  • When possible, keep away from people who are obviously sick. If this is not possible, maintain a distance of three feet or more, between you and those who are ill.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. Contact with shared items such as phones, computers, refrigerator handles or other household items create an opportunity to share germs.
  • Alcohol-based hand cleaners are effective against the flu virus
  • Encourage those who are sick to:
    • Stay home from school or work
    • Cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing
    • Use their inner arm or crook of the elbow to cover coughs and sneezes, rather than their hands
    • Dispose of their used tissues properly (place in garbage)
    • Wash their hands frequently with soap and water.
For additional information and updates visit the CDC or the New York State Department of Health websites.

The CDC, New York State Department of Health, and Ontario County Public Health Department continue to follow this outbreak and will keep the public informed as new information becomes available.