The information and recommendations posted on this page are compiled from multiple sources and is intended to provide the best information available at the time. This page will be updated as new information becomes available.
H1N1, also known as Swine Flu, is a type A influenza virus that causes respiratory illness in pigs. Swine influenza viruses may circulate among swine throughout the year, but most outbreaks occur during the late fall and winter months similar to outbreaks in humans.
How does H1N1 (Swine Flu) spread?
People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections do occur. Influenza viruses can be directly transmitted from live pigs to people and from people to pigs but not from eating pork or pork products. Human infections with the flu virus from pigs are most likely to occur when people are in close proximity to infected pigs such as in pig barns (1).
The 2009 H1N1 influenza virus that caused human illness is contagious and spreads from person to person in the same manner that seasonal flu spreads. The virus can be spread when a person infected with the influenza virus coughs or sneezes (1). Remember - a single sneeze can produce more than 40,000 droplets of moisture and millions of germs (2).
People may also become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose before washing their hands.
What about pork and pork products?
Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food. You can not get H1N1 flu from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160°F kills the virus as it does other bacteria and viruses (1).
The symptoms of H1N1 (swine flu) are similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu. These symptoms can include:
- Lack of appetite
Additional symptoms that have been reported include:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
When to seek medical care
If you have flu symptoms and are at risk for complications, you should contact your health care provider to discuss your symptoms.
If you become ill and experience any of the following warning signs, you should seek urgent medical attention.
Signs in children:
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish skin color
- Shows symptoms of dehydration
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
- Fever with a rash
Signs in adults:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
The CDC has recommended that individuals get vaccinated for the seasonal flu which is an important tool toward preventing influenza. The seasonal flu vaccine however is unlikely to protect you from H1N1 (swine flu). Therefore individuals should be vaccinated for the seasonal flu and for the H1N1 flu.
Certain at-risk groups should receive the H1N1 vaccine:
- Pregnant women.
- Household contacts and caregivers for children younger than 6 months of age.
- Health care and emergency medical services personnel.
- People between the ages of 6 months through 24 years of age.
- Persons aged 25 through 64 years who have health conditions associated with higher risk of medical complications from influenza.
Precautions and prevention tips:
Everyone should take precautions to avoid getting the flu or spreading it to others. Simple steps will minimize your risk:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough. Throw the tissue away after you use it.
- Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve if you do not have a tissue.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing.
- When you do not have access to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer such as Purell.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Clean and disinfect hard surfaces in common areas including doorknobs, telephone handsets, etc. This is important since the influenza virus can survive on surfaces and can infect a person for up to 2-8 hours after being deposited on the surface.
- *If you are sick, limit your contact with other people as much as possible. Remain at home until at least 24 hours after you are free of fever (100° F [37.8°C]), or signs of a fever without the use of fever-reducing medications (CDC). For more information see the CDC H1N1 Exclusions Recommendation page.
Listen to the H1N1 audio Public Service Announcement
Watch the Germ Trail video by DOH
Download Microsoft Media Player
Posters in multiple languages
Preparedness is the key to comfort and convenience during a disaster, or extended event, such as a pandemic flu. To minimize the inconvenience and discomfort an event or disaster causes, prepare your emergency supplies beforehand and plan for alternate ways to take care of your needs.
Additional supplies to have on hand:
To increase the comfort of someone that is sick from the H1N1 virus, consider having the following supplies available:
- Ibuprofen or acetaminophen as recommended by your health care provider.
- DO NOT use aspirin in children or teenagers with influenza because it can cause Reye's syndrome, a life-threatening disease.
- Cough syrup and an extra supply of tissues.
- Plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration such as soups (chicken noodle soup, etc.), broth, water, sports drinks.
- Supply of alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Emergency Management Division:
- Workplace Resources and Questions (Pandemicflu.gov/DOH/OSHA/CDC):
- Guidance for Travelers and Public Events:
- Guidance for Public Gatherings (CDC)
- School Pan Flu Preparedness Guide - August 2009 (PDF)
- Infectious Disease Control Guide for School Staff (PDF)
- Emergency Procedures:
- Pandemic Flu Model Plan - Planning Tool for Schools (Word)
- Evacuation (Word)
- Shelter-in-Place (Word)
- Preparing for Flu: A Communication Toolkit for Schools (K-12)
- H1N1 Flu and U.S. Schools FAQ's - U.S. Department of Education
- Additional Flu Resources for School Leaders - U.S. Department of Education
- Emergency Planning for Students with Special Needs
- EMD School Basic Emergency Plan Web site
(1) Center for Disease Control
(2) Telegraph.co.uk - Sneezing into Your Sleeve
(3) Washington State Department of Health (DOH)
WA Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI)
World Health Organization (WHO)