Health Break | Published September 14, 2009 | Written by Marlene Stetson, RN, CIC, director of infection prevention and control, Mount Nittany Medical Center

Quick Facts on H1N1 Flu

**Originally published on 5/1/09; updated on 9/15/09. For up-to-date information on H1N1 flu virus, you can call Mount Nittany's Health Information Line: 814.231.7177. ** H1N1 flu is a contagious respiratory disease spread from person to person and has caused the United States to declare a health emergency. What Are the Symptoms? H1N1 flu has the similar symptoms as regular human flu, including fever, cough, sore throat, headache, chills and fatigue. The disease may make existing health conditions worse, and severe illness such as pneumonia, respiratory failure, and death were reported. Can It Be Treated? Yes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of antiviral drugs for the treatment and/or prevention of H1N1 flu. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines that keep flu viruses from reproducing in your body. If you get sick, antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. Should I Get the Vaccine? The H1N1 vaccination efforts will initially target five groups: * pregnant women * people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age * healthcare and emergency medical services personnel * persons between the ages of 6 months through 24 years, and * people ages 25 through 64 who are at higher risk for novel H1N1 because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems How Long Can a Person with H1N1 Flu Spread It to Others? H1N1 flu is highly contagious. People with the flu could be contagious as long as they have symptoms and for 5–7 days following the onset of the illness. How Does H1N1 Flu Spread? H1N1 flu is spread the same way that regular seasonal human flu is spread, through person to person transmission. This means that when a person with the flu coughs or sneezed, the virus can be passed to the next person. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it, then touching their mouth or nose. When Should I Seek Emergency Care? If flu-like conditions get worse, seek emergency medical attention. For children, emergency warning signs include fast or difficult breathing, bluish skin color, lack of fluids, lethargy, being extremely irritable to the point of not wanting to be held, flu-like symptoms that improve then return and fever with a rash. For adults, emergency services are needed if there is difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion or severe vomiting. How Can I Avoid Getting Sick? • Take care of yourself. Eat well, get plenty of sleep and exercise, and drink lots of liquids. • Carefully wash your hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand cleaner often. • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Discard tissues after use. • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. • If you get sick, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others. Is It Safe To Eat Pork? Yes. According to the USDA, you cannot get the disease from eating pork or pork products. How Well Prepared Is Mount Nittany Medical Center for a Possible Outbreak? Mount Nittany Medical Center is closely monitoring the national and state indicators on this disease and continues to actively plan for a local flu threat. Be assured that we are doing everything possible to prepare for a possible outbreak in our region. What Concrete Steps Are We Taking? Mount Nittany Medical Center is better prepared than ever before to respond to a flu threat. We have been working closely with local, state and national authorities for a number of years to plan and prepare for an influx of patients should the need arise. Specific action steps include: *We will continue to care for every patient regardless of what condition they present with at the Medical Center. We have enhanced surveillance in the emergency department to identify potential cases and appropriately treat those who need our care in a timely and efficient manner. * Regarding supplies and preparations: We are always prepared with a contingency of supplies to address an influx of patients. Based on current public health indicators and our pandemic flu plan, we are thoroughly inventorying and planning for supplies, staffing and facility. Our plan for a flu threat uses information from state and national health authorities and is purposefully fluid to address the ever-changing global situation at a local level. Mount Nittany Medical Center has also registered to received H1N1 flu vaccinations for our patients, employees and volunteers. *We have developed and distributed multiple communications to provide ongoing information to our employees, physicians, patients and community; and we will continue to do so as needed. For more information, go to or contact Marlene Stetson, RN, infection prevention and control coordinator at Mount Nittany Medical Center at 814.234.6164.