Frequently Asked Questions A(H1N1) Influenza (Swine Flu)
What is Swine Flu [A(H1N1) Influenza]?
Swine flu is a respiratory illness caused by the type A flu (H1N1) virus. The current influenza
pandemic (commonly known as swine flu) in countries around the world has been caused by
a new version (strain) of the virus named as Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 by the World Health
How do people become infected with the A(H1N1) virus?
The virus is spread from person-to-person. It is transmitted as easily as the normal seasonal
flu and can be passed to other people by exposure to infected droplets expelled by coughing
or sneezing that can be inhaled, or that can contaminate hands or surfaces.
These droplets typically spread about one metre. They hang suspended in the air for a while,
but then land on surfaces, where the virus can survive for up to two to eight hours.
Anyone who touches these surfaces can spread the virus on further by touching anything
Is it possible to catch A(H1N1) twice?
Yes, because the virus can mutate (change). If you become infected with the swine flu virus,
your body produces antibodies against it, which will recognize and fight off the virus if the
body ever meets it again. However, if the virus mutates, your immune system may not
recognize this different strain and you may become ill again, although you may have
some protection from having had a similar virus previously.
Should one try and catch A(H1N1) now to build up immunity to more serious strains
that may emerge later?
No. Do not try to catch the virus as this may help it spread. Not everything is known yet
about the virus, and it is too soon to assume it is only a mild disease. Catching this new
strain of flu will not necessarily protect one from strains that may emerge later.
What are the signs and symptoms of the new influenza A(H1N1)?
Signs of A(H1N1) influenza are flu-like, and include a fever, cough, headache, muscle and
joint pain, sore throat and runny nose, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhoea. Typical
symptoms could manifest in a sudden high fever (38ºC/100.4ºF or above) and a sudden
cough. Other symptoms may include tiredness, chills, aching muscles, or loss of appetite.
How do I protect myself from catching A(H1N1) and reducing the spread of the virus?
You can reduce, but not get rid of, the risk of catching or spreading swine flu by:
Always covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
Disposing of dirty tissues promptly and carefully
Maintaining good basic hygiene, for example washing hands often with soap and
warm water – this helps to reduce the spread of the virus from your hands to face, or
Cleaning surfaces such as door handles, telephones, workspaces often and
Avoiding close contact with people who might have flu
Reducing the time spent in crowded settings
Improving airflow in your home and office by opening windows
Practising good health habits - get adequate sleep, eat nutritious food, and exercise
How long can influenza virus remain viable on objects (such as books and
Studies have shown that influenza virus can survive on environmental surfaces and can
infect a person for up to 2-8 hours after being deposited on the surface.
Should I wear a facemask?
No. Healthcare workers should wear a facemask if they come into close contact with a
person with symptoms (within one metre), to reduce their risk of catching the virus from
patients. However, it is not recommend that healthy people wear facemasks to go about their
Why are facemasks not recommended?
There is no evidence to suggest that this is a useful preventative measure. The virus is
spread by people touching infected surfaces, or by someone coughing or sneezing at very
close range. Unless you are standing close to someone with the virus, wearing a facemask
There are concerns about the risks of not using facemasks correctly. They must be changed
regularly as they don't work as well when dampened by a person’s breath. People may infect
themselves if they touch the outside of their mask, or may infect others by not throwing
away old masks safely. Finally, wearing a facemask may encourage complacency. People
need to focus on good hand hygiene, staying at home if they are feeling unwell and covering
What is seasonal influenza?
Seasonal influenza is an acute viral infection caused by an influenza virus. It occurs every
year and, although the viruses change each year, many people have some immunity to the
circulating virus which helps limit infections. There are seasonal influenza vaccines to reduce
What is the difference between seasonal influenza and the new influenza A(H1N1)?
You will not be able
to tell the difference between seasonal flu and influenza A(H1N1)
without medical help. The symptoms of seasonal influenza and the new influenza A(H1N1)
Does the current seasonal influenza vaccine protect against this new virus?
Available data suggest there will be little or no protection offered by the seasonal vaccine
Why are people so worried about the new influenza A(H1N1)?
The new influenza (A(H1N1) virus has never before circulated among humans and is not
related to previous or current human seasonal influenza viruses. As it is a new virus, most
people have no or little immunity and, therefore, this virus could cause more infections than
are seen with seasonal flu. According to the WHO, It is as contagious as seasonal influenza
and is spreading rapidly, particularly among young people (aged 10 to 45).
How serious is the new influenza A(H1N1)?
The severity of the disease ranges from very mild symptoms to severe illnesses that can
result in death. The majority of people who contract the virus experience the milder disease
and recover fully within a week without antiviral treatment or medical care. Most people
recover from infection without the need for hospitalization or medical care.
Why are people dying from the new influenza A(H1N1) virus?
Hundreds of thousands of people die every year from seasonal flu epidemics, and the new
influenza A(H1N1) virus will be no different. Most cases of death generally occur as a result
of complications or an opportunistic (secondary) infection, like pneumonia. There are certain
factors that put some groups at increased risk of severe or fatal illness.
Who are the high risk groups?
The high risk groups include: pregnant women, people with underlying medical conditions
(most notably chronic lung disease - including asthma), cardiovascular disease, cancer,
diabetes, and those with weak immune systems. The WHO reports that some preliminary
studies suggest that obesity, and especially extreme obesity, may also be a risk factor for
The WHO reports
: Within this largely reassuring picture, a small number of otherwise
healthy people, usually under the age of 50 years, experience very rapid progression to
severe and often fatal illness, characterized by severe pneumonia that destroys the lung
tissue, and the failure of multiple organs. No factors that can predict this pattern of severe
disease have yet been identified, though studies are under way.
When should someone seek medical care?
A person should seek medical care if they experience shortness of breath or difficulty
breathing, their lips turn blue, have bloody or coloured sputum, experience chest pains,
experience an altered mental status, low blood pressure, or if a high fever persists beyond
three days. In children, danger signs include fast or difficult breathing, lack of alertness,
difficulty in waking up, and little or no desire to play, continuing fever or convulsions
What medication is used to treat the A(H1N1) Influenza?
The antiviral agents Oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) are drugs currently recommended for treatment
in South Africa. As the majority of patients experience mild symptoms and make a rapid and
full recovery, often in the absence of any form of medical treatment, antiviral treatment is
only needed if you have been diagnosed with A(H1N1) Influenza or if a doctor or healthcare
provider decides that you are at serious risk of developing severe illness. Clinical benefits
associated with antiviral treatment include a reduced risk of pneumonia (one of the most
frequently reported causes of death in infected people) and a reduced need for
What do antivirals do?
Antivirals are not a cure, but they help you to recover by relieving some of the symptoms,
reducing the length of time you are ill by around one day, and reducing the potential for
serious complications, such as pneumonia.
Should I take an antiviral now just in case I catch the new virus?
No. You should only take an antiviral if your healthcare provider advises you to do so.
Individuals should not buy medicines to prevent or fight this new influenza without a
prescription, and they should exercise caution in buying antivirals over the internet.
Should I go to work or school if I have the flu but am feeling OK?
No. Whether you have influenza A(H1N1) or a seasonal influenza, you should stay home
and away from work through the duration of your symptoms. This is a precaution that can
protect your work colleagues and others.
Should I go to work or school if I have been in contact with someone who I know has
Yes, as long as you do not have flu-like symptoms. If you are feeling well, you should go
about your normal activities, including going to school or work. It can take up to seven days
(normally two to five days) after infection for swine flu symptoms to develop. If you develop
symptoms, stay at home and follow the general advice.
What is the incubation period for A(H1N1)?
The incubation period between infection and appearance of symptoms is not kown with total
certainty at this stage, but it is assumed to be between two and five days.
When are people most infectious?
People are most infectious from one day before they develop symptoms to up to seven days
after they get sick, although they continue to shed the virus (for example, in coughs and
sneezes) for up to five days (seven days in children). People become less infectious as their
symptoms subside, and once their symptoms are gone they are no longer considered
infectious to others. Children, especially younger children, might potentially be contagious for
longer periods. It is therefore important for people to stay at home for at least seven days
when they have symptoms to reduce spread to other people.
How long can an infected person spread this virus to others?
At the current time it is believed that this virus has the same properties in terms of spread as
seasonal flu viruses. With seasonal flu, studies have shown that children, especially younger
children, might potentially be contagious for longer periods. It is therefore important for
people to stay at home for at least 7 days when they have symptoms to reduce spread to
Do we have tests available in SA for influenza A(H1N1)?
Yes. The National Influenza Centre at the National Health Laboratory service at the National
Institute for Communicable Diseases and Virology Laboratory at University of Stellenbosch
are currently providing the testing for the virus where indicated. It is likely that additional
laboratories will be providing testing in the coming weeks.
Is there a vaccine available for A(H1N1)?
No vaccine is currently available. Manufacturers are in the process of developing a vaccine.
Why are pregnant women at heightened risk?
Pregnant women are more susceptible to all infections because their immune system
is naturally suppressed in pregnancy. They are especially vulnerable to swine flu, as
this virus is affecting younger age groups than that seen during seasonal epidemics.
Reduce your risk of infection by avoiding unnecessary travel and avoiding crowds
where possible. Pregnant women should also follow the general hygiene advice.
WHO strongly recommends that, in areas where infection with the H1N1 virus is
widespread, pregnant women, and the clinicians treating them, be alert to symptoms
What complications might occur during a pregnancy?
Possible complications are pneumonia (an infection of the lungs), difficulty breathing
and dehydration, which are more likely to happen in the second and third trimester.
There is a small chance that these complications could lead to premature labour or
miscarriage. There is not yet enough information to know precisely how likely these
Should I stop breastfeeding if I am ill?
No, not unless your healthcare provider advises it. Studies on other influenza
infections show that breastfeeding is most likely protective for babies - it passes on
helpful maternal immunities and lowers the risk of respiratory disease. Breastfeeding
provides the best overall nutrition for babies and increases their defence factors to
Can I take antiviral drugs if I am pregnant?
Yes, on the advice of your doctor or healthcare provider.
CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF FIVE
Incidences of seasonal influenza are often highest in young children and more
severe illness leading to hospitalization occurs more commonly in this group than in
older children or adults. High mortality rates have been seen in very young children
(less than one year) in previous pandemics.
In the US, the Centers for Disease Control interim guidance on A(H1N1) antiviral
use, based on its guidance on seasonal flu, is that children younger than five years
old should be considered as a high risk group for A(H1N1), noting that children
younger than two years have the greater risk for severe complications from seasonal
flu. It appears that this experience is being reflected with A(H1N1), with about 9% of
US hospitalizations having been said to be in patients under the age of two.
How do I tell if my child has A(H1N1) Influenza?
Contact your doctor or healthcare provider immediately if your child has any of the
• feverish, feels hot or is having convulsions (seizures)
How do I treat my child who has A(H1N1) Influenza?
Keep your child at home and follow the treatment you would normally give for any
cold or flu. Make sure they drink plenty of liquids, get lots of rest and eat nutritious
food. Prescribed or over-the-counter cold and flu remedies may be taken to help
control temperature and flu/cold symptoms.
Can children take antivirals?
Yes, on the advice of your doctor or healthcare provider
Can babies under the age of one take antivirals?
Your doctor or healthcare provider will be able to advise you on a treatment regimen
for your baby. The first line of protection for babies aged under one is respiratory and
hand hygiene and frequent cleaning of surfaces, toys and equipment.
If you are at all worried about your child, always call your doctor or
healthcare provider for advice immediately
PEOPLE OVER THE AGE OF 65
Although at present the risk of becoming infected in this age group appears to be lower than
in other age groups, not much is known of the risk of more serious illness if the over 65 is
infected. It would be appropriate to consider people over the age of 65 as at risk on a
precautionary basis. Over 65s with mild disease have not been recommended as a target
group for antiviral treatment by WHO.
If someone with HIV or Aids gets A(H1N1) Influenza, are they more likely to suffer
People with underlying medical conditions are at heightened risk of becoming seriously ill or
suffering complications like pneumonia if they get A(H1N1).
Is it safe to eat pork and pork products?
Yes. Influenza A(H1N1) has not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating
properly handled and prepared pork (pig meat) or other products derived from pigs. The
influenza A(H1N1) virus is killed by cooking temperatures of 160°F/70°C, corresponding to
the general guidance for the preparation of pork and other meat.
Can my pet catch swine flu?
There is currently no evidence that pets could get this new strain of flu. The swine flu virus
appears to be passing only from person to person or from human to swine. In general, flu
viruses commonly infect just one species; for example, dogs and cats do not get seasonal flu
Who may I contact for further information?
Answers to most questions are available on the following websites:
• World Health Organisation Website: www.who.int/csr/disease/swineflu/en/
• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, Atlanta): www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/
Telephonic enquiries can be made to
• Daytime NICD Influenza Hotline (8am to 5pm Monday to Friday) - 082 477 8026
• After-hours, weekends and public holidays – NICD Hotline - 082 883 9920
• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/swineflu_you.htm. Accessed 6 August 2009
• National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD)
Obstetrics/Gynecology Postfertilization Effect of Hormonal Emergency Contraception Chris Kahlenborn, Joseph B Stanford, and Walter L Larimore OBJECTIVE: To assess the possibility of a postfertilization effect in regard to the most common types of hormonal emergency contraception (EC) used in the US and to explore the ethical impact of this possibility. DATA SOURCES AND STUDY SELECTION:
The LPL/ADAM29 expression ratio is a novel prognosis indicator in chroniclymphocytic leukemiaPablo Oppezzo, Yuri Vasconcelos, Catherine Settegrana, Dominique Jeannel, Franc¸oise Vuillier, Magali Legarff-Tavernier,Eliza Yuriko Kimura, Ste´phane Bechet, Ge´rard Dumas, Martine Brissard, He´le`ne Merle-Be´ral, Mihoko Yamamoto,Guillaume Dighiero, and Fre´de´ric Davi, for the French Cooperativ