The swine flu – or H1N1 – virus results in a respiratory infection that can easily spread from one human being to another. Although medical experts are predicting a pandemic in which as many as half the U.S. population becomes infected, most people who catch this type of influenza won’t need to see a doctor, according to the Mayo Clinic.
However, the first step in preventing the virus from spreading is recognizing its symptoms, then staying home when you become ill. The most common signs develop three to five days after exposure. They include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches and headache. Chills, fatigue, diarrhea and vomiting are also common.
The spread of swine flu begins after the virus has infected the cells lining the nose, throat and lungs. This occurs when a person inhales contaminated droplets or transfer live virus from a surface where it resides to the nose, mouth, hands or eyes. One thing’s for certain, according to WebMd: it’s not possible to catch swine flu by eating ham, bacon or any other form of pork.
The virus expands its network of victims when someone ill doesn’t stay away from others. Once infected with the H1N1 strain of influenza, adults and children are contagious for around seven days after symptoms appear.
Medical experts have concluded that the H1N1 virus probably spreads just like the regular flu. Sick individuals spread it to others when they sneeze or when both touch the same object. For this reason, it’s important to avoid direct contact if at all possible with individuals who appear to be infected. It’s also wise to avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
Swine flu spreads when someone touches contaminated surfaces like doorknobs and countertops. Because the virus can live for two hours and possibly longer, it’s important to wash hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water. If they’re not readily available, the next best practice is utilizing an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
One of the most dangerous aspects of swine flu is that it individuals can spread it up to 24 hours before they even experience any symptoms. With the holidays on the horizon, many Americans are growing leery of planning any travel on airplanes or by other public transportation.
Neither the World Health Organization nor the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) currently recommends any travel bans or even restrictions for healthy individuals. However, they suggest that individuals who have flu-like symptoms should stay at home and avoid travel for seven days after getting sick or for at least 24 hours after signs of illness appear, whichever is a longer period.
When circumstances dictate that flu victims come into contact with other individuals, those who are ill should make a point of covering the nose and mouth when sneezing and should consider wearing a mask until they’re in the clear.