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> Health Factsheets H1N1 Flu FAQ

H1N1 Flu Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

NYSDOH Swine Flu Hotline
What You Can Do to
Stay Healthy
There are everyday actions people can take to stay healthy.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
  • If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them. 

TCHD Reviewed & Updated: Nov. 18, 2009
Source: NYSDOH

Table of Contents

H1N1 Flu – General Information

What is H1N1 flu?
(NYSDOH Link for more info about what H1N1 flu is)

H1N1 flu is an influenza virus that was seen for the first time in the United States in April 2009. Health officials initially called it "swine flu" because it looked similar to some flu viruses that pigs get. However, further study showed that H1N1 flu contains a combination of flu virus genes found in some pigs, humans, and birds. You may hear or see H1N1 flu called "2009 H1N1 flu," "H1N1 flu," or "pandemic (H1N1) 2009" - these all refer to the same H1N1 flu. Although H1N1 flu is often called "swine flu," it is not the same.

Is H1N1 flu the same as swine flu?

No. Swine flu is a respiratory disease that pigs get that is caused by a different influenza virus. Outbreaks of swine flu happen regularly in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, although sometimes people who work or live around pigs can get it. Very rarely, people with swine flu can spread it to others.

Is H1N1 flu the same as seasonal flu?

No. Some differences between seasonal flu and H1N1 flu are:

  Seasonal Influenza H1N1 Flu
When flu occurs: Every year; usually winter and early spring First identified April 2009; continuing to present
Age group most affected: People 65 years and older Children and young adults (age 5-24 years)
Vaccine available: Yes, available every year; available now Late September to mid-October 2009

Is H1N1 flu the same as the avian flu (bird flu) that has been in the news in recent years?

No. Even though H1N1 flu contains avian (bird) genes, it is not the same. The bird flu virus that has been watched closely is categorized as influenza A (H5N1), and is transmitted primarily among birds. This strain of avian flu (bird flu) has not been found in the United States.

I heard that H1N1 flu is pandemic—what does that mean?

This means that influenza due to the H1N1 virus is occurring in multiple countries around the world and that human infection is widespread. However, this does not mean that the severity of the illness has increased. Despite its wide and quick spread, most people who have gotten H1N1 flu have had mild illness. Unfortunately, some people in New York State, in the United States, and in other countries have developed more severe illness and some have died. At this time, it is uncertain how many people with H1N1 flu will develop serious complications during this pandemic.

What are symptoms of H1N1 flu?
(NYSDOH Link for more info about symptoms, risks and complications)

The symptoms of H1N1 flu in people are similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu. The main symptoms of H1N1 flu are:

  • Fever of 100°F (37.8°C) or higher (measured with a thermometer)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Rhinorrhea (runny nose)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Myalgia (muscle aches and pains)
  • Fatigue (weariness, tiredness, or lack of energy)
  • Nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, or diarrhea (these are not typical seasonal flu symptoms)

As with seasonal flu, people at high risk for flu complications may not develop usual flu-like symptoms (for example, they may not have a fever because their immune system is weak and can not mount a response to fight off the virus). Contact your health care provider if you have questions about your symptoms.

At this time, most people in the U.S. with possible or confirmed H1N1 flu have had mild illness that has resolved on its own or with over-the-counter medications, such as fever or pain relievers (for example, acetaminophen, aspirin*, or ibuprofen).

* Never give children or young people under 19 years old aspirin or aspirin-containing products unless told to do so by a health care provider. These include any product that contains aspirin, acetylsalicylic (uh-SEET-l-sal-uh-SIL-ik) acid, or subsalicylates (sub-sa-LIS-a-lates). For fever, use a different nonprescription anti-fever medication (such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen) instead.

Do not give children under 4 years old over-the-counter cold medications unless your health care provider tells you to.

How long can people with H1N1 flu spread it to others?

People with H1N1 flu may be infectious (contagious) from 1 day before they have symptoms until 24 hours after their fever is gone. Some individuals, including children (especially younger children) and immunocompromised persons, may be contagious for longer periods.

How long after catching H1N1 flu do symptoms appear?

Health officials believe that the incubation period for H1N1 flu is similar to seasonal influenza. Flu symptoms typically start 2 to 3 days after infection, but may begin as soon as 1 day and up to 7 days after infection.

Can H1N1 flu be treated? (NYSDOH Link for more info about treatment)

Yes. Treatment depends on several factors. Most people with flu-like symptoms or H1N1 flu have recovered on their own, without seeing health care providers or taking prescription medicines. For those who need prescription medicine, there are two antiviral medications (anti-flu drugs) that treat H1N1 flu. These medicines help decrease the severity of symptoms, prevent complications, and shorten the duration of the illness. Antiviral medications work best if started within 48 hours of the first symptoms.

School-Related Information

Who makes the decision to close schools? (NYSDOH Link for More Info about Schools)

School closings are a local decision made by schools; however, the New York State Department of Health and local health departments work closely with school districts and individual schools to make sound recommendations based on individual circumstances.

How long should students, faculty or staff with flu-like symptoms or confirmed novel H1N1 influenza stay out of school?

Students, faculty or staff with influenza-like illness (ILI) should stay home and not attend school or go into the community, except to seek medical care, for at least 7 days, even if they feel better sooner. Note: Some children and adults who have had the flu may experience a lasting cough after all other symptoms end. If 7 days have passed, they no longer have a fever, and otherwise feel well for at least 24 hours, they may return to school, even if they have this residual (leftover) cough.

If my child shows flu-like symptoms or has been diagnosed with novel H1N1 influenza, can he or she still attend day care or other afterschool activities?

No. Ill children should stay home. They should not attend alternative childcare, afterschool activities or other group activities.


Is the vaccine safe? (NYSDOH Link for More Vaccine Info)

It is anticipated that the safety of the H1N1 flu vaccine will be similar to seasonal flu vaccine since it is made in the same way. Despite the fact that seasonal flu vaccine changes each year with regards to the strains of viruses it contains, clinical trials are not performed each year because these vaccines have an excellent safety record and are made in the same way year after year. In comparison, the H1N1 flu vaccine has been tested in thousands of volunteers, including children and pregnant women. No safety issues have been found. Most people had no side effects at all. The benefits of flu vaccination far outweigh the risks

Who is making the vaccine?

The five manufacturers that make seasonal vaccine are in the process of manufacturing the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine. The five manufacturers that are producing vaccine for the U.S. are: Sanofi Pasteur, CSL Limited, MedImmune LLC, Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics Limited, and Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK).

What makes the 1976 H1N1 influenza vaccine different from the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine that is being released now?

The type of H1N1 that existed in the 1970's is not the same as the H1N1 that is currently circulating in the population. The vaccine that was created in the 1970's was made in a different way than the current H1N1 vaccine.

How much will the vaccine cost?

Both the vaccine and the supplies required to give the vaccine will be provided by the Federal government at no charge. Reimbursement for vaccine administration is likely to be covered by most private health insurers and will be covered by public health insurance (Medicaid/Medicare) plans.

How many doses do I need?

One dose of the vaccine is needed for those 10 years and older. For those 9 years and younger, 2 doses of the vaccine will be required and should be given at least 4 weeks or 28 days apart, according to current CDC recommendations.

What is Thimerosal?

Thimerosal is a very effective preservative that has been used since the 1930s to prevent contamination in some multi-dose vials of vaccine. Thimerosal is an organic compound containing approximately 49% ethyl mercury. Multiple scientific studies and an extensive review by the Institute of Medicine have shown no evidence of adverse health effects due to thimerosal. Click here for more info about thimerosal (PDF, 29K).

What can I do to prevent catching H1N1 flu? (NYSDOH Link for More Prevention Info)

Take these steps to protect your health and the health of those you take care of:

  • Avoid close contact (within 6 feet away) with sick people as much as possible.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently and teach children and others how to properly wash their hands. See Hand Hygiene in the Definitions and Terminology section for detailed information.
  • Encourage people around you to fully cover their mouth and nose with disposable tissues when they cough or sneeze. If they don't have tissues, cough or sneeze into the bend (crook) of the arm (inside of the elbow) or into their shirt sleeves. See Respiratory Hygiene and Cough Etiquette under Definitions and Terminology for more information.
  • Monitor your health and the health of those you take care of for flu-like symptoms.
  • Stay informed. Health officials, researchers, and scientists learn more about H1N1 flu daily. Most television, radio, and internet news organizations accurately report the latest news. Avoid the rumor mill and make sure you check the credibility of your sources before sharing information with others. Stay up-to-date by visiting this Web site and often.

What is "good respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette"?

Good respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette means that people:

  • Carefully cover their nose and mouth with a disposable tissue every time they cough or sneeze. If they do not have a tissue, they should cough or sneeze into their sleeves or upper arm.
  • Dispose of used tissues immediately into a covered trash receptacle
  • Perform hand hygiene (wash their hands with non-antimicrobial soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or antiseptic hand wash if hand washing is not possible) after contact with secretions from the nose and mouth and potentially contaminated objects or materials.

Can household cleaning help prevent transmission?

Yes. To help prevent transmission, clean frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, refrigerator handle, toilet seat and handle. Clean all hard surfaces, for example, bedside tables, bathroom surfaces and children's toys, with a standard household disinfectant. If surfaces are visibly dirty, use a household cleaner first, then a disinfectant. Wash your hands with soap and water after cleaning surfaces and items. For more information, visit Information about Cleaning and Disinfectants .

Can I get novel H1N1 influenza from eating or preparing pork?

No. Novel H1N1 influenza is not spread by food. You cannot get novel H1N1 influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.

Illness in the Household

What should I do if I have flu-like symptoms or H1N1 flu?
(NYSDOH Link for More Info about Illness in the Household)

In general:

  • Unless you need to be seen for medical care, stay home.
  • If you do need to go to your health care provider's office or your health care clinic, you probably will be asked to wear a facemask, as tolerated, upon entry into the office, while in the waiting room, while being examined and cared for, and as you leave.
  • Wear a disposable facemask, if tolerable, if you must have close contact with others (including when breastfeeding, if applicable). If you develop influenza symptoms and do not have disposable facemasks at home, see if someone can purchase them for you-do not go out to buy them.
  • If you must be in a public place, protect others by wearing a disposable facemask, if tolerable. Keep the time you spend in crowded settings as short as possible.
  • Cover your mouth and nose every time you cough or sneeze.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Avoid having visitors. If visitors must enter your home, avoid contact with them.
  • If your symptoms worsen, call your health care provider immediately.
  • Stay home until you are fever-free without the use of a fever-reducing medicine for at least 24 hours.

See also:
Respiratory Hygiene and Cough Etiquette under Definitions and Terminology
Hand Hygiene under Definitions and Terminology


H1N1 Flu Frequently Asked Questions and Answers (Source: NYSDOH)

Much of the above information, and "NYSDOH links for more info..." were sourced at the NYSDOH FAQ. Following is the Table of Contents for the NYSDOH H1N1 FAQ:

General influenza information:

NYSDOH Detailed Information

CDC H1N1 Information and Interim Guidance for Specific Groups
(Links open to CDC Website)

Other Sources

Even More Information (Source: NYSDOH)