Healthy Body

Swine flu – some frequently asked questions

What are the symptoms of Influenza Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 infection in people?

The symptoms are like those of regular seasonal flu and include: fever of sudden onset, cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache and muscle aches. Some people have vomiting and diarrhoea. In severe cases, pneumonia and respiratory failure may develop and occasionally death can occur. Most cases, however, are mild and patients recover without hospitalisation.

How do people get infected?

Flu viruses may spread when a person's hands touch respiratory droplets on another person or an object and they then touch their own mouth or nose (or someone else's mouth or nose) before washing their hands. Many people with influenza have no symptoms, but are still infectious.

What can I do to avoid infection?

The risk of transmission can be greatly reduced by hand washing (use soap and water), using tissues if you sneeze or cough, and disposing of these in a bin. In some areas of your college or university, where soap and water are not readily available, alcohol hand rubs may be supplied, but hand washing is actually preferable where it is an option. You should routinely was your hands on entering buildings.

The wearing of face masks by healthy individuals who are not involved in caring for people who are ill is not recommended. The available scientific evidence does not suggest that this is an effective preventive measure when used in this way.

What steps should I take if I become ill with Influenza (H1N1)?

  • Stay at home for seven days – avoid spreading infection to others
  • Cover your nose and mouth with disposable tissues when sneezing, coughing, wiping and blowing your nose
  • Dispose of used tissues in the nearest waste bin
  • Wash your hands often
  • Take simple anti-fever medication such as paracetamol or aspirin and drink plenty of fluids
  • It is important to ensure that all household surfaces that are touched by hands are kept clean, especially bedside tables, surfaces in bathrooms and kitchens and children’s toys.

I have been in contact with or have been looking after someone with Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 Influenza. If I have no symptoms, is it safe for me to go to work / college?

Yes, if you have been in contact with a case of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza the only steps you need to take care to monitor yourself for symptoms – if you develop symptoms suggestive of influenza you should contact the Flu Information Line on Freephone 1800 94 11 00, available 24 hrs a day (see above for symptoms of influenza). If you have severe symptoms, or are in a high risk group, then you should contact your GP/family doctor by telephone.

I am in the Influenza (H1N1) ‘high risk’ category. What should I do in relation to my work / studies?

The HSE has advised that there are a number of groups who may have an increased risk of complications in the event that they become infected with influenza. These high risk groups include:

  • People whose immune system is reduced by disease or medication
  • People with chronic lung, heart, kidney, liver or neurological disease
  • People with Diabetes Mellitus
  • People aged 65 years and older
  • Children under 5 years
  • People on medication for asthma
  • Severely obese people (Body Mass Index of 40 or more)
  • Pregnant women
  • People with Haemoglobinopathies

At this time (September 2009) there are no restrictions on the working activities of any person in high risk groups as advised by the HSE. If you are in one of the high risk groups and you have any concerns about your health status or your working environment then you should in the first instance contact your GP or treating physician for advice.

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