Know the Facts: Precautions for Swine Flu

Experienced doctor talks symptoms, vaccinations

How will the doctor know for sure someone has swine flu?

The doctor should assess the severity of your symptoms. Some offices are doing quick tests to see if they can confirm if this is H1N1, but the sensitivity of those tests are quite variable. Basically, the doctor will rely on his clinical judgment.

How do you protect yourself from getting the swine flu or prevent giving it to others?

Cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze. The flu is transmitted primarily through sneezing and coughing, which produce respiratory droplets. You can pass the flu on to others if they breathe in those droplets or if you cough in your hand and touch something. The virus can stay alive on certain surfaces anywhere from 2-8 hours. That is why hand washing is so important.

If you have someone at home or work who you believe has the flu avoid being within six feet of them. At home, keep them isolated in their own room. Also, wash down surfaces, countertops, door knobs, and communal office equipment to prevent the spread of infection.

How is the swine flu different from the seasonal flu?

The vast majority of people with the swine flu have mild symptoms. They don’t need to see a doctor, they recover well and they go on with their life. For reasons we cannot predict some people have severe reactions and require hospitalization. More young than elderly people are becoming infected. A certain portion of the elderly population actually might have some immunity to H1N1 from previous infections.

Should people get vaccinated for both the seasonal flu and swine flu?

Yes. They are separate viruses and vaccination from one will not protect you from the other. You should get vaccinated for the seasonal flu vaccine first and then the H1N1. You might also consider that there are two antiviral drugs approved and available to fight H1N1 for individuals who have already contracted it. Doctors will try to limit antiviral drugs to people who are hospitalized with influenza and people with increased risk of influenza-related complications. The vaccinations increase your immunity to the disease, while the antiviral drugs work like an antibiotic and specifically attack the virus.

What business etiquette should people apply when they feel sick with the flu?

If you feel sick, now isn’t the proper time to be a hero. Don’t say, ‘I’m coming to work. I’m only a little sick.’ That is not going to be beneficial to your employees or coworkers. Let your supervisor know that you have flu symptoms, stay home, and continue to stay home until you have no fever for at least 24 hours. Limit outside activities to seeking medical care.

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