Answers to Common Questions about the H1N1 Flu

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H1N1 FluAre your patients asking you questions about the H1N1 Flu? Do you notice that many people have the same concerns about the H1N1 Virus? If you find yourself unsure of how to answer any questions your patients might have, maybe this will help!

Can wearing a mask out in public keep me from getting the H1N1 Flu?
Flu viruses are spread by droplets from the nose and mouth, and not through airborne particles. The droplets can only travel about three feet, at most. A mask will not protect people from droplets they may touch and transmit to their eyes or face. The only scenario in which a mask is effective is if someone is coughing within three feet of you.
Should flu medications be given to high-risk people before they become sick?
Health officials recommend treatment with Tamiflu and Relenza, but only for people who have flu-like symptoms, or for people who have been in contact with someone who has the H1N1 flu.  Taking these medications ahead of time could actually create a future resistance to the medication.
Can the H1N1 flu spread from food that a sick person has touched?
It can. Most influenza viruses only live for a few hours on things like doorknobs and tables, so it is unlikely that fruit or vegetables will still carry any virus from a picker or handler by the time they are sold, but it would be possible for the virus to spread on fast food prepared by someone who is sick.
Do people get H1N1 flu from eating pork or pork products?
No.  Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products are safe. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160°F kills the H1N1 flu virus as it does other bacteria and viruses.
Will existing flu shots protect people from H1N1 flu?
No. Health officials say the current flu shot protects against seasonal influenza, but is unlikely to protect against the H1N1 flu. There is a separate vaccination needed to protect against the H1N1 virus.
When would schools and other public places close?
U.S. schools have closed only when a student has a confirmed case of swine flu. If conditions worsen in the United States, health officials say they have not ruled out school closures and other safety precautions. The Center for Disease Control is suggesting individuals develop a family emergency plan, including storing a supply of food, medicines, face-masks, alcohol-based hand-rubs, and other essential supplies.
Is the H1N1 virus life threatening?

So far almost all cases of swine flu in the United States have been mild and resolved without problems. A few people have been hospitalized, but almost all of those cases had complications from chronic illness or other conditions. Health officials expect more deaths and hospitalizations as the illness progresses, but so far, they say it looks no different from seasonal flu, which causes an average 36,000 deaths in the United States per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.



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