International Schools Group (ISG)

School Nurse

Notes from the Nurse's Office

Influenza A (H1N1)

Notes on- Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Influenza A, (also known as the H1N1 /Swine Flu Virus), has some elements of a virus found in pigs. Influenza A can spread very quickly from human to human. This is because it is a new virus (in it’s present form) and few people have immunity to it.

The typical symptoms are:

  • a sudden fever (a high body temperature of 38°C/100.4°F or above), and a sudden cough.

Other symptoms may include:

  • headache,
  • tiredness, 
  • chills,
  • aching muscles,
  • limb or joint pain,
  • diarrhea or stomach upset,
  • sore throat,
  • runny nose,
  • sneezing, or
  • loss of appetite.

In children, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

  • Fast breathing or trouble 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 then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Also, if a person shows signs of improvement, but then gets worse, urgent medical treatment should be sought.

For most people, Influenza A is a mild illness. Some people get better by staying in bed, drinking plenty of water and taking ‘over-the-counter’ flu medication.

However, some groups of people are more at risk of serious illness if they catch Influenza A .

It is already known that you are particularly at risk if you have:

  • chronic (long-term) lung disease,
  • chronic heart disease,
  • chronic kidney disease,
  • chronic liver disease,
  • chronic neurological disease (neurological disorders include motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease),
  • immunosuppression (whether caused by disease or treatment) or diabetes mellitus.

Also at risk are: 

  • patients who have had drug treatment for asthma within the past three years,
  • pregnant women,
  • people aged 65 and older, and young children under five.

It is vital that people in these higher-risk groups who catch Influenza A, seek medical advice promptly. The use of anti-viral medication may be required.

Worldwide, just over 0.4% of the laboratory-confirmed cases reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) have died. This is a similar rate to ordinary flu.

Where complications do occur, they tend to be caused by the virus affecting the lungs. Infections such as pneumonia can develop.

Current advice indicates that the incubation period for Influenza A , can be up to 7 days, but most likely to be between 2 and 5 days. People are most infectious as they develop symptoms, typically for up to five days (seven days in children). People become less infectious as their symptoms subside, and once symptoms are gone, they are considered no longer infectious to others. It is extremely important that students, with suspected flu, stay home and rest until their symptoms have subsided (approximately 7 days). At home, they need to minimize contact with others to help prevent spread and practice good hygiene measures as set out below.

What is the difference between flu and a cold?

Flu symptoms are usually more severe than cold symptoms and can affect the whole body. Flu usually starts suddenly with high fever, chills, severe body aches, extreme tiredness, headache, and dry cough

Colds are generally milder than flu and usually affect just the nose and throat. Colds begin slowly with a sore or scratchy throat, sneezing, and runny or stuffy nose; a mild cough develops a few days later. Fever is rare in adults and older children, and extreme tiredness is not a cold symptom.

How Does Influenza A ( H1N1/swine flu) spread?

Flu viruses are made up of tiny particles that can be spread through the droplets that come out of your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.

When you cough or sneeze without covering your nose and mouth with a tissue, those droplets can spread and others will be at risk of breathing them in.

If you cough or sneeze into your hand, those droplets and the germs in them are then easily spread from your hand to any hard surfaces that you touch, and they can live on those surfaces for some time.

Everyday items such as door handles, computer keyboards, mobile and ordinary phones and the TV remote control are all common surfaces where flu viruses can be found.

If other people touch these surfaces and then touch their faces, the germs can enter their systems and they can become infected. That’s how all cold and flu viruses, including swine flu, are passed on from person to person.

The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to follow good hygiene practices. These will help to slow the spread of the virus and will be the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself and others from infection.

When you cough or sneeze it is especially important to follow the rules of good hygiene to prevent the spread of germs:

  • Always carry tissues.
  • Use clean tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze.
  • Bin the tissues after one use.
  • Wash your hands with soap and hot water or a sanitiser gel often.

There’s a simple way to remember this: CATCH IT, BIN IT, KILL IT.

 

Information Sources:

www.nhs.uk
www.pandemicflu.gov/faq/swineflu/
www.direct.gov.uk/swinefluhttp:/

Additional Useful Information

www.flu.gov./plan/school/schoolguidance.html
www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/schools