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May 1, 2009

2009 H1N1 Flu Virus Q&A
Updated May 1, 2009

Q:  What is the 2009 H1N1 Flu?
A:  The 2009 H1N1 Flu is a novel (previously unseen) influenza A virus.  It has also been referred to as “swine flu.”  This new virus was discovered in Mexico in April 2009 and has since spread to the US and to several countries around the world.

Q:  Can I get this new flu from eating ham or other pork products?  What about fruits, vegetables, or other foods imported from affected areas?
A:  No.  This flu is contracted by coming in contact with another person who has the virus or with an infected live animal.  Much like the seasonal flu, this flu spreads through droplets, such as in a sneeze or cough.  This is NOT a food-borne illness.  Properly handled and prepared pork products and other food items will not cause a person to contract this flu.  Although the H1N1 virus is not a food-borne illness, other illnesses (such as salmonella, etc.) are, so it is always recommended that meats be cooked thoroughly and that you wash fruits and vegetables before preparing them to eat.

Q:  What are the symptoms of the H1N1 flu, and what do I do if I think I have it? 
A:  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided the following guidelines for determining if you may be at risk for this new flu virus:

If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms within a week of having either traveled to an area where swine flu has been identified or being in contact with someone who has traveled to one of those areas, you should stay home and call your doctor about your symptoms.  Flu-like symptoms include a fever of 100°F (37.8°C) or higher accompanied by a cough or sore throat. 

If you have not traveled to an affected area or been in contact with anyone who has traveled to one of those areas within the previous seven days but area feeling mildly ill with flu-like symptoms, you are encouraged to stay home and recover.  If any of the following symptoms occur, seek medical treatment:

  • For Children:
    • Fast breathing or difficulty breathing
    • Bluish skin color
    • Not drinking enough fluids
    • Not waking up or not interacting
    • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
    • Flu-like symptoms improve but return with fever and worse cough
    • Fever with a rash
  • For Adults:
    • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
    • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
    • Sudden dizziness
    • Confusion
    • Severe or persistent vomiting

Q:  How serious is this flu?
A: The main cause of concern at this point has been the fact that this is a new virus which has not previously been discovered, and it can be spread from person to person.  Because this virus has not been seen before in humans, no one is immune to it.  However, cases seen in the US to date have been relatively mild with only a few hospitalizations and one death (which, it was discovered, was a child from Mexico whose family sought treatment for him in the US relatively late in his illness).

The fact is that the regular seasonal flu causes an average of 36,000 deaths every year in the United States.  Since January, more than 18,000 people have died from seasonal flu or related complications, while only one death has occurred in the US from this new flu virus.  That is not to say that the public should not be alert and proactive in preventing spread of this or any other contagious illness. 

Q:  How can I protect myself and my loved ones from getting the flu?
A:  Basic hygiene and common sense go a long way in preventing transmission of the flu.  Here are some things we can all do to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

  • Wash your hands often, especially after coughing, sneezing, and wiping or blowing the nose.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
  • Disinfect commonly-handled items such as phones, remote controls, door knobs, copier or fax keypads, etc. with Lysol or another disinfectant labeled as effective in killing the flu virus and other germs.
  • Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.
  • Use paper tissues when wiping or blowing your nose; throw tissues away after use.
  • Stay away from crowded living and sleeping spaces, if possible.
  • Stay home and avoid contact with other people to protect them from catching your illness.

Q:  What about traveling?  Is it safe to travel?
A:  At this time, the CDC is recommending that individuals not travel to Mexico.  When traveling outside your local community, use prudent caution, common sense, and preventive health measures as during any regular flu season.

Q:  Are there medications available to treat the H1N1 flu?
A:  Yes.  CDC recommends the use of Tamiflu or Relenza for the treatment of those infected with the H1N1 flu virus and for prevention of infection in household contacts of confirmed or probable cases in high risk groups.

Q:  Why aren’t these anti-viral medications being given out as a precautionary measure?
A:  There is an ample supply of antiviral medications available to treat those who become infected with the flu.  Timing of use for treatment or prevention is important and needs to be directed by your physician.  The antiviral drugs, as preventive treatments, are only effective while being taken.  Overuse of medication has the potential to cause resistance to the medication, making it less effective in combating illness.  Medications have a limited shelf life.  For all these reasons, anti-viral medications are only being prescribed to treat infected persons and those requiring preventive treatment.

Q:  Where can I get more information?
A:  Below are a variety of informational web sites which can provide further information on the 2009 H1N1 Flu:

The CDC has also set up a 24/7 information hotline:  1-800-CDC-INFO.
Questions can also be directed to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene at by fax to 410-225-0378 or by e-mail at

Human Swine Flu Outbreak - April 28, 2009

As most of you are aware, disease from a new type of influenza virus was first reported in Mexico but has now spread to the United States, Canada and other countries.    Cases have been confirmed in California, Texas, Kansas, New York and Ohio. On Sunday, April 26, 2009 a public health emergency in the United States was declared. On Monday, the World Health Organization raised their pandemic alert level to phase 4, indicating human to human transmission of a virus able to sustain community wide outbreaks

No cases have been reported in Maryland yet or here at Frostburg State University.  All students, faculty and staff are encouraged to follow standard recommendations for prevention.  Symptoms of swine 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 swine flu.

There is no vaccine available right now to protect against swine flu.  Take these everyday steps to protect your health

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.  Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze.  Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.  Germs spread this way
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people
  • If you get sick, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

A red siren icon has been placed on the Frostburg State University homepage, the current student page, the faculty/staff page and the Brady Health web page which can link individuals to the Allegany County Health Department, the CDC and others.  Also, a swine flu icon with other additional links is on the Brady website.  Since this is an ongoing, emerging situation, the most up to date information would be available from these reliable sources.  If students have questions, or health concerns they should call Brady Health at 301-687-4310.

Click on the links below for more detailed information:

Previous Health Alerts