Education on H1N1 flu (swine flu)
What is H1N1 flu?
H1N1 (referred early on as "swine flu") is a new influenza virus causing illness in people. This new virus was first detected in people in the United States in April 2009. The virus is spreading from person to person, probably in much the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread.
What are the signs and symptoms of swine flu in people?
- Fever (usually high)
- Extreme tiredness
- Dry cough
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle aches
- Diarrhea and vomiting has also been reported
How Flu Viruses Spread
How can someone with the flu infect someone else?
Infected people may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 7 or more days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.
How long can an infected person spread H1N1 flu to others?
People with H1N1 influenza virus infection should be considered potentially contagious as long as they are symptomatic and possible for up to 7 days following illness onset. Children, especially younger children, might potentially be contagious for longer periods.
What surfaces are most likely to be sources of contamination?
Germs can be spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth. Droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air. Germs can be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets from another person on a surface like a desk and then touches their own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands.
How long can viruses live outside the body?
We know that some viruses and bacteria can live 2 hours or longer on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs, and desks. Frequent handwashing will help you reduce the chance of getting contamination from these common surfaces.
Can I get H1N1 influenza from eating or preparing pork?
No. H1N1 influenza viruses are not spread by food. You cannot get H1N1 influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.
How can my business decrease the spread of influenza?
- Encourage sick employees to stay at home.
- Encourage your employees to wash their hands frequently with soap and water or with hand sanitizer if there is no soap or water available. Also, encourage your employees to avoid touching their noses, mouths, and eyes.
- Encourage your employees to cover their coughs and sneezes with a tissue, or to cough and sneeze into their upper sleeves if tissues are not available. All employees should wash their hands or use a hand sanitizer after they cough, sneeze or blow their noses.
- Employees should avoid close contact with their coworkers and customers (maintain a separation of at least 6 feet). They should avoid shaking hands and always wash their hands after contact with others. Even if employees wear gloves, they should wash their hands upon removal of the gloves in case their hand(s) became contaminated during the removal process.
- Provide customers and the public with tissues and trash receptacles, and with a place to wash or disinfect their hands.
- Keep work surfaces, telephones, computer equipment and other frequently touched surfaces and office equipment clean. Be sure that any cleaner used is safe and will not harm your employees or your office equipment. Use only disinfectants registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and follow all directions and safety precautions indicated on the label.
- Discourage your employees from using other employees' phones, desks, offices or other work tools and equipment.
- Minimize situations where groups of people are crowded together, such as in a meeting. Use e-mail, phones and text messages to communicate with each other. When meetings are necessary, avoid close contact by keeping a separation of at least 6 feet, where possible, and assure that there is proper ventilation in the meeting room.
- Reducing or eliminating unnecessary social interactions can be very effective in controlling the spread of infectious diseases. Reconsider all situations that permit or require employees, customers, and visitors (including family members) to enter the workplace. Workplaces which permit family visitors on site should consider restricting/eliminating that option during an influenza pandemic. Work sites with on-site day care should consider in advance whether these facilities will remain open or will be closed, and the impact of such decisions on employees and the business.
- Promote healthy lifestyles, including good nutrition, exercise, and smoking cessation. A person's overall health impacts their body's immune system and can affect their ability to fight off, or recover from, an infectious disease.
Use good hygiene practices
Clean and disinfect hard surfaces and items in the home, school, and at work.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze; put the used tissue in a waste basket and clean your hands.
- Cover your mouth and nose with your upper sleeve (not your hands) if you do not have a tissue and need to cough or sneeze.
- Clean your hands as soon as possible after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
- Use soap and water and wash your hands for 15 - 20 seconds; or
- Use alcohol-based hand wipes or alcohol-based (60-95% alcohol) gel hand sanitizers; rub these on the hands until the liquid or gel dries.
- Clean your hands often when you or others are sick, especially if you touch your mouth, nose, and eyes.
- Always clean your hands before eating.
- Carry alcohol-based hand wipes or alcohol-based (60-95% alcohol) hand-sanitizing gels with you to clean your hands when you are out in public.
- Teach your children to use these hygiene practices because germs are often spread at school.
Use recommended waste disposal practices
- Follow label instructions carefully when using disinfectants and cleaners.
- Pay attention to any hazard warnings and instructions on the labels for using personal protective items (such as household gloves).
- Do not mix disinfectants and cleaners unless the labels indicate it is safe to do so. Combining certain products (such as chlorine bleach and ammonia cleaners) can be harmful, resulting in serious injury or death.
- Keep hard surfaces like kitchen countertops, tabletops, desktops, and bathroom surfaces clean and disinfected.
- Clean the surface with a commercial product that is both a detergent (cleans) and a disinfectant (kills germs). These products can be used when surfaces are not visibly dirty.
- Another way to do this is to wash the surface with a general household cleaner (soap or detergent), rinse with water, and follow with a disinfectant. This method should be used for visibly dirty surfaces.
- Use disinfectants on surfaces that are touched often. Clean the surface as explained above before using disinfectants.
- If disinfectants are not available, use a chlorine bleach solution made by adding 1 tablespoon of bleach to a quart (4 cups) of water; use a cloth to apply this to surfaces and let stand for 3 – 5 minutes before rinsing with clean water. (For a larger supply of disinfectant, add ¼ cup of bleach to a gallon [16 cups] of water.)
- Wear gloves to protect your hands when working with strong bleach solutions.
- Keep surfaces touched by more than one person clean and disinfected. Examples of these surfaces include doorknobs, refrigerator door handles, and microwaves.
- Clean with a combination detergent and disinfectant product. Or use a cleaner first, rinse the surface thoroughly, and then follow with a disinfectant.
- Use sanitizer cloths to wipe electronic items that are touched often, such as phones, computers, remote controls, and hand-held games.
- Use sanitizer cloths to wipe car door handles, the steering wheel, and the gear shift.
- Toss tissues into waste baskets after they have been used for coughs, sneezes, and blowing your nose.
- Place waste baskets where they are easy to use.
- Avoid touching used tissues and other waste when emptying waste baskets.
- Clean your hands after emptying waste baskets.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too. If possible, stay home from work, school (including after school activities), and errands if you become ill. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
Employee sick policies
In the event of pandemic influenza, businesses will play a key role in protecting employees' health and safety as well as limiting the negative impact to the economy and society. Planning for pandemic influenza is critical. Forecast and allow for employee absences during a pandemic due to factors such as personal illness, family member illness, community containment measures and quarantines, school and/or business closures, and public transportation closures. Employers need to be aware of company policies and procedures on sick leave.
Where can I get accurate information?
Communication Toolkit for Businesses and Employers
Resources for Businesses and Employers (CDC)
Planning Ahead as a Business or Organization (Wisconsin Pandemic Website)
Business Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist (pdf)
H1N1 Influenza and You - La Crosse County Health Department: Nursing Division (pdf)
Cover Your Cough - Children (pdf)
Cover Your Cough - Adult (pdf)
La Crosse County Pandemic Preparedness Coalition (pdf)
Washing Your Hands (pdf)