What is H1N1?
Influenza A (H1N1) is a virus subtype of influenza that affects human beings. Because this strain of influenza has never before infected human beings, most people have little to no immunity to it. Therefore, this virus could cause more infections than other forms of influenza or “seasonal flu.”
Initial cases of the illness were called “swine flu” because many of the genes in the new virus were very similar to type A influenza viruses that occur in pigs in North America. True swine flu rarely infects human beings, and spread of such infections from person to person is limited. Further laboratory testing has shown that the virus that causes 2009 H1N1 flu is “very different from what normally circulates in North American pigs,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus contains genes from flu viruses typically found in pigs in Europe and Asia, as well as genes from avian (bird) flu and human flu viruses.
Despite the laboratory tests that have identified 2009 H1N1 flu as a distinct virus, and not caused by the swine influenza virus, some media reports still refer to the illness as “swine flu.” In August 2009, the World Health Organization began referring to the 2009 H1N1 influenza as “novel H1N1 virus.”
How does the 2009 H1N1 flu spread?
Global health authorities have confirmed that the 2009 H1N1 flu spreads from person to person. It is believed to spread in the same way that the seasonal flu spreads — mainly through the tiny droplets that become airborne when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Healthy people may be directly infected by these droplets when people who are ill cough or sneeze without covering their mouths and noses. Healthy people also may be infected by touching surfaces that have been contaminated by these infected droplets, then touching their noses or mouths. These viruses can survive on surfaces for up to eight hours.
People who are infected with the 2009 H1N1 flu may be able to spread the virus up to a full day before they show symptoms of the illness, and for five to seven days after becoming ill. You may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick. Children and people with weakened immune systems may be contagious for longer periods.
What do I need to know to help prevent the spread of the 2009 H1N1 flu?
· The 2009 H1N1 flu is not spread through pork, pork products, or any other food that is properly prepared.
· Wash your hands. Frequent, proper handwashing — by people who are sick and people who are healthy — is critical to stem the spread of the illness, especially since the virus can be spread before a person shows symptoms.
· Follow best practice guidelines if an outbreak of 2009 H1N1 flu occurs in your area. Following these guidelines and using appropriate cleaners and/or disinfectants improve the likelihood of killing the virus in your facility.
· Maintain strong cleaning and infection control protocols in your business. Even if there is no outbreak of 2009 H1N1 flu in your area, proper cleaning and disinfection of surfaces is critical to the health and safety of your customers, employees and guests. It protects your business and helps prevent the spread of many kinds of illnesses.
· Stay home if you are sick. Encourage your employees to stay home if they are sick.
· Learn more. The World Health Organization has developed extensive informational resources related to the pandemic 2009 H1N1 flu. These materials are updated regularly and reflect the most recent information about the spread of the virus, its prevention and treatment. Visit http://www.who.int/csr/disease/swineflu/
. Updated global and local information and advice also are provided at sites hosted by regional, national and local health authorities. Go to Useful Links for more resources.