Swine Flu – H1N1 Frequently Asked Questions FAQ

Swine Flu - H1N1 Virus Image

Swine Flu – H1N1 Virus Image

Ministry of Health
Basseterre, St. Kitts & Nevis
August 13, 2009 

Since April 2009, a new virus called Pandemic Influenza Type A H1N1 has spread globally.  It is commonly referred to as Swine Flu.  There are many concerns and questions.  However, the good news is that the majority of affected persons experience mild illness.

How would I know if I have the virus?  What are the symptoms of The Flu?  An affected person may experience symptoms such as fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, aches, pains, diarrhea and vomiting.

How are viruses spread?  Viruses are spread from person to person and from persons to animals mainly by coughing and sneezing.  Animals can also spread virus to people when they sneeze or make grunting noises.

If I have the flu, what should I do?  If you are managing well, this means that your illness is mild and you will recover in 3 to 5 days without medication.  Stay at home and, if symptoms worsen, call your community health center or personal physician.

How could I tell if my illness is getting worse?  Worsening illness means severe illness.  Go to the hospital if you have breathing difficulty, weakness and/or dehydration.

How long do mild symptoms last?  Typically for 3 to 5 days.

How does a new Influenza strain start?  Influenza viruses are unpredictable and versatile infectious agents.  They live in the respiratory tract of humans and other animals (poultry, swine).  The genetic material of viruses may combine to form a completely new virus such as Pandemic H1N1.

Can Influenza be cured by medication?  Medications such as Tamiflu and Relenza do not kill the virus.  They change how the virus behaves making it easier for the body’s defenses (immune system) to stop the spread and eradicate the virus.

Can I protect myself from Influenza?  Yes, you can.  A healthy body is better able to fight back against Influenza and other infections.  Good health starts with good nutrition, exercise and rest.  A diet based on fresh plant-based foods provides the best protection.  Other very effective measures include washing your hands with soap and water and asking others to cover their cough and sneeze.

Can vitamins and minerals help?  Do I need large doses?  Vitamins and minerals are essential parts of the daily diet.  They are required in small quantities.  Megavitamin and mineral supplements are poisonous.  The best sources of vitamins are vegetables, fruits, cereals and provisions.  Additionally, sunlight acts on the skin to produce adequate amounts of Vitamin D.

I have heard about high-risk persons.  Who is a high-risk person?  Some persons are known to be at higher risk for severe influenza illness.  They include persons who are obese; persons with asthma, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, sickle cell anemia, HIV, and cancer; plus children under 5 years, and the elderly over 65.

I am a person in a high-risk group.  Should I be concerned?  Continue to pay very close attention to your health, starting with good nutrition, exercise and rest.  Limit your exposure to crowds and avoid persons who are coughing and sneezing.  If you have flu symptoms, call your health care provider.  Seek medical attention immediately, if you have breathing difficulty and weakness.

I am travelling; should I get Tamiflu just in case?  No.  There is no need to stockpile antiviral medication.  When travelling, it is always advisable to be observant of the people and the environment around you.  Limit your exposure to crowds and avoid contact with persons who are coughing and sneezing.  Most H1N1 flu cases are mild.  Medication is not necessary for mild illness.  Do not buy medication on the Internet.

If I become ill while on a cruise, how will I get medication?  Cruise ships have medical units that are adequately stocked with antiviral medication and staffed by qualified medical personnel.

Common Misconceptions

·      H1N1 Influenza is a deadly flu.  Not true:  More people die every year from regular, seasonal influenza.

·      Eating pork causes the flu.  Not true:  The virus is spread by coughing and sneezing.

·      Every person with fever has the flu.  Not true:  Fever may also occur during infections due to common cold viruses and seasonal influenza viruses.

·      Every person with the flu needs medication:  No:  Most affected persons have mild illness and will recover without medication. 

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