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Education on H1N1 flu (swine flu)

What is H1N1 flu?
H1N1 Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that causes regular outbreaks in pigs. People do not normally get H1N1 flu, but human infections can and do happen. H1N1 flu viruses have been reported to spread from person-to-person, but in the past, this transmission was limited and not sustained beyond three people.

Are there human infections with H1N1 flu in the U.S.?
In late March and early April 2009, cases of human infection with H1N1 influenza A (swine) viruses were first reported in Southern California and near San Antonio, Texas. Other U.S. states have reported cases of H1N1 flu infection in humans and cases have been reported internationally as well. An updated case count of confirmed H1N1 flu infections in the United States is kept at CDC and local and state health agencies are working together to investigate this situation.

Is this H1N1 flu virus contagious?
CDC has determined that this H1N1 influenza A (swine) virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. However, at this time, it is not known how easily the virus spreads between people.

What are the signs and symptoms of swine flu in people?
The symptoms of H1N1 flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with H1N1 flu. In the past, severe illness (pneumonia and respiratory failure) and deaths have been reported with H1N1 flu infection in people. Like seasonal flu, H1N1 flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.

How Flu Viruses Spread
  • A flu pandemic is an outbreak of illness caused by a new flu virus that spreads around the world. Because the virus is new to people, nearly everyone will be at risk of getting it.
  • The main way that illnesses like colds and flu are spread is from person to person by coughs and sneezes. This can happen when droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air and make contact with the mouth or nose of people nearby.
  • Droplets from an infected person can also make contact with environmental surfaces (like the tops of tables). The virus can then be spread from those surfaces if a person touches the droplets and then touches his or her own eyes, mouth, or nose before washing his or her hands.
  • The virus also can be spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes into his or her hands and then touches a surface (like a phone, remote control, or toy) before washing his or her hands. Another person could become sick if he or she touches that surface and then touches his or her own eyes, mouth, or nose before washing. Flu viruses and other germs can live 2 hours or longer on hard environmental surfaces like tables, doorknobs, and desks. Surfaces are likely to be touched much more often than they can be cleaned and disinfected. Thus, it is important to wash your hands often, keep your hands away from your face, and keep such surfaces clean to help prevent the spread of germs.

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
  • 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.
Clean and disinfect hard surfaces and items in the home, school, and at work.
  • 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.
Use recommended waste disposal practices
  • 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.
Social Distancing
People with H1N1 influenza (swine) virus infection should be considered potentially contagious as long as they are symptomatic and possibly for up to 7 days following illness onset. Children, especially younger children, might potentially be contagious for longer periods. How can you protect yourself and your family? 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?

2009 WI Novel Influenza A (H1N1) Business Sheet - NEW

CDC H1N1 flu website

Department of Health Services (Wisconsin) H1N1 flu website

Educational tools:

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)

H1N1 Flu Brochure (pdf)

Washing Your Hands (pdf)

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