If you haven’t heard of H1N1 influenza (flu), chances are you’re probably aware of it via its more common name, Swine flu. It is so called because when it was first detected it was very similar to a flu virus carried by pigs.
In 2009, swine flu was responsible for a flu pandemic that originated in Mexico and spread throughout countries across the world. Fortunately, it wasn’t as severe as first thought and in 2010 the World Health Organization declared the pandemic was over.
But the risk of swine flu still remains, H1N1 influenza is one of the main flu strains that continues to circulate with the elderly, pregnant women, and people suffering from heart, lung, kidney and liver disease particularly at risk of complications.
Swine flu is a flu virus that spreads in the same way as seasonal flu – through direct contact with someone who is already infected, breathing in airborne particle containing the virus that an infected individual has emitted when they have coughed or sneezed and by touching items that have been contaminated by someone with the flu virus.
The incubation period for flu is 4-6 days. Adults can be infectious a day before the symptoms show, which mean you can pass on the H1N1 virus without even knowing you have it.
How long is flu contagious? For adults, the contagious period can last five to seven days, while for children, it may last up to two weeks.
Swine flu symptoms include:
- Aching muscles
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Diarrhoea or vomiting
- Shortness of breath
The swine flu virus is often included in the seasonal flu vaccination. People of high risk including all pregnant women should get vaccinated. Check with you local health care professional to find out more.
Regularly wash your hands:
Practicing good hand hygiene is critical in stopping the spread of infection. If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitiser.
Always cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze and make sure to place the used tissue into a bin. If you don't have a tissue to hand then sneeze into your elbow rather than your hand.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces:
The flu virus can live up to 48 hours on non-porous surfaces so it’s really important to clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces such as handles, counter tops, light switches etc.
Avoid people who have the flu, and if you have flu, avoid others to prevent the spread of the virus.
If you’re worried about swine flu or the H1NI virus, contact your GP or healthcare advisor.
Myths and Truths
If you’re healthy you won’t catch swine flu.
Healthy people, young and old, can become infected with the swine flu virus, although the elderly, sick and pregnant women are at particular risk from H1N1.
If you’ve got a fever and flu-like symptoms, you’ve got swine flu.
The symptoms of swine flu and seasonal flu are very similar, but some people who have swine flu never even develop a fever. Don’t assume the worse – see your GP if you’re worried.