Public Health Division
Public Health Division

H1N1 (Swine) Flu:  Frequently Asked Questions


City of Berkeley Public Health Division
1947 Center Street, Second Floor, Berkeley, CA 94704

Map to Public Health Division 

 (510) 981-5300 (Phone)
(510) 981-5395 (Fax)
(510) 981-6903 (TDD)

PublicHealth@cityofberkeley.info

Hours of Operation:
Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.


Important H1N1 (Swine) Flu Facts | Prevention & Preparation | If You Get Sick | For Parents | Flu Vaccines | Other | Additional Info | H1N1 (Swine) Flu: FAQ (PDF) | Informacion Importante Sobre El Virus H1N1 (Gripe Porcina) (PDF)


(Updated 3/18/10)

IMPORTANT H1N1 (Swine) FLU FACTS

What is H1N1 (swine) flu? 

How is H1N1 (swine) flu different than seasonal influenza? 

How serious is H1N2 flu? 

Hasn't H1N1 gone away? 

What can we expect to happen in the spring? 

What are the signs and symptoms of H1N1 (swine) flu? 

What does "high risk" mean? 

Who is at high risk? 

What should I do if I'm high risk? 

How can I tell if someone sitting next to me has H1N1 flu? 

How do you catch H1N1 flu? 

When is a person most contagious? 

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PREVENTION AND PREPARATION

What can I do to protect family and myself?  

What is the way to "cover my cough or sneeze"? 

What is the best way to wash my hands? 

What can I do to prepare? 

Should I wear a facemask or respirator? 

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IF YOU GET SICK

What should I do if I get sick? 

When should I see a doctor? 

If I think I have the H1N1 (swine) flu should I get tested? 

When should I get medical care right away? 

Are there medicines to treat H1N1 flu? 

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FOR PARENTS

Are schools going to close again? 

What do I need to consider if my child has to stay at home sick? 

Can my sick child go back to school as soon as he or she feels better? 

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FLU VACCINES

How many flu shots do I need this year? 

Does the seasonal flu vaccine also protect against the novel H1N1 flu? 

Can the seasonal vaccine and the novel H1N1 vaccine be given at the same time? 

Who should get the H1N1 vaccine? 

Where can I get the H1N1 vaccine? 

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OTHER

Is it safe to travel? 

Can I get H1N1 flu from eating or preparing pork, bacon, and ham? 

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IMPORTANT H1N1 (Swine) FLU FACTS
(Updated 3/18/2010)

What is H1N1 (swine) flu?
H1N1 flu (originally called “swine flu”) is an illness in people caused by a new flu virus.  Because it is new, the general population is not immune to it. It is spreading from person-to-person, in much the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread. It has spread all over the world and is currently well established in California and the bay area.

How is H1N1 (swine) flu different from seasonal influenza?
H1N1 is a new flu virus.  Because H1N1 is new, people do not have immunity to it, so it can spread quickly through the population.  New flu viruses are unpredictable: H1N1 flu may change and become more severe as time goes on.

How serious is H1N1 flu?
Right now, the symptoms and severity of H1N1 are similar to seasonal flu--most people are having a mild case of the flu, but some are having more serious symptoms.  The H1N1 virus is expected to continue causing illness, hospitalizations, and death in the coming months.  However, as a new virus, H1N1 could change to cause more severe illness.  If that happens, the number of hospitalizations and deaths could be much greater than we see with the seasonal flu.  As a comparision, seasonal flu causes about 4,000 deaths in California every year.

Hasn’t H1N1 gone away?
No. The H1N1 flu is well established in our community.  Most flu infections in California and around the world are currently from the H1N1 flu virus.  New viruses like H1N1 sometimes appear in "waves" - the flu spreads rapidly then seems to go away, only to return again.  H1N1 continues to affect people, even over the summer when flu is usually not active. 

What can we expect to happen in the spring?
Public health officials are monitoring the flu carefully for changes that may occur.  We are learning more about it every day.  Since viruses are able to change frequently, experts are concerned that this flu could become more severe, causing more deaths and hospitalizations.  See “Prevention and Preparation” below for what you can do to protect yourself from the flu.

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What are the signs and symptoms of H1N1 (swine) flu?
The symptoms of H1N1 flu are like the symptoms of seasonal flu. You may have the flu if you have some or all of these symptoms:

Fever 
Cough
Runny or stuffy nose
Sore throat
 
Body aches
Headache
Chills
 
Fatigue 
Diarrhea and vomiting

Like seasonal flu, H1N1 flu may worsen chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease). 

What does “high risk” mean?
A person who is at high risk is someone who is more likely to have complications (be hospitalized or die) from the H1N1 flu.

Who is at high risk?
People at high risk are:

  • Pregnant women
  • People with chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma and other respiratory conditions, compromised immune systems or neuromuscular diseases
  • Infants and children under 5 years of age.

What should I do if I’m high risk?
If you become ill with flu symptoms or have had close contact with someone who may have the H1N1 flu, call your health care provider for advice. Your health care provider will determine whether you need to be seen and if you need antiviral drugs.

It is especially important for you to get both your regular seasonal flu shot AND your H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available.

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How can I tell if someone sitting next to me has H1N1 flu?
You can't. The virus is currently well established in the Bay area. It is spreading from person-to-person without regard for borders, race, or ethnicity. If someone has the H1N1 symptoms (see question above), it couldn't hurt to keep your distance. Try to stay 3- 6 feet away from someone who has flu symptoms.

How do you catch H1N1 flu?
The virus spreads mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing by people with the flu. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something, such as a surface or object, with flu virus on it and then touching their mouth and nose.

When is a person most contagious?
People with the flu are contagious 1 day before symptoms begin until 24 hours after the fever symptoms are over. Children, especially younger children, may spread flu germs for longer periods.  This is why people with flu-like illness should stay home for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone.

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PREVENTION AND PREPARATION

What can I do to protect my family and myself?
There are steps you can take every day, throughout the year.  

  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.
  • Cough into your sleeve.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way. 
  • Avoid close contact with sick people. 
  • Stay home when you are sick. Return to school or work only when your fever has been gone for 24 hours. 

What is the way to “cover my cough or sneeze”? 
The best way to cover your cough is to cough or sneeze into your sleeve, NOT your hand or a tissue. This way you will not spread germs by touching things afterwards.  If you cough into your hand or a tissue, throw the tissue away and wash your hands right away.

What is the best way to wash my hands?
Washing your hands often protects you from all kinds of germs. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 15 to 20 seconds (about as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice through).  Soap and water are best.  If they are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand cleaners may be used instead.

What can I do to prepare?

  •  Talk to your employer about how you will manage if you or your children are ill
  •  Make plans for childcare for children who become ill
  •  Plan to get your flu vaccine: both the seasonal and novel H1N1 vaccines.

Should I wear a facemask or respirator?
If you are sick with flu symptoms wearing a mask will protect those around you.  You may be asked to wear a mask if you go to your doctor’s office with flu symptoms.  You don’t need to wear a respirator unless you're taking care of a person who's sick with H1N1 flu.  Wearing masks is a popular reaction to respiratory outbreaks in other parts of the world, but it's not a step that the U.S. government has recommended for the current outbreak. The CDC has an online guide to using masks and respirators to prevent spreading flu germs at www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/masks.htm

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IF YOU GET SICK

What should I do if I get sick?
If you are sick, you should stay away from other people as much as you can to keep from spreading your illness.  Stay home!  People with flu-like illness should stay home and not attend school or go into the community except to seek medical care for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone.  Please do not go to the Emergency Room unless you have a medical emergency.

When should I see a doctor?
Like the seasonal flu, most people who become ill do not need to be tested or treated. If you are pregnant or have a chronic illness you should consult your provider if you have questions or concerns. If you do not have health insurance or a regular doctor, you may contact your local public health department for referral information.  In Berkeley, call (510) 981-5300.

If I think I have the H1N1 (swine) flu should I get tested?
Testing is currently recommended only for hospitalized individuals.  Most people recover from H1N1 flu without needing any special medication or testing. 

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When should I get medical care right away?
Adults should get emergency medical care right away if they have:

  • Trouble breathing or shortness of breath 
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen 
  • Sudden dizziness 
  • Confusion 
  • Severe or continuing vomiting
  • Flu symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough 

Children should be taken to emergency medical care right away if they have:

  • 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 symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

Are there medicines to treat H1N1 flu?
Yes. They are only recommended for those hospitalized due to H1N1 complications or for people who are in high-risk groups (see definition of “high risk” above).  Most people recover from H1N1 flu without needing any special medication. Your doctor will help you decide whether medication is right for you. The prescription antiviral medicines oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) can be used to treat H1N1 flu.

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FOR PARENTS

Are schools going to close again?
We will be working closely with BUSD to balance the risks of flu spreading in the schools with the disruption this will cause with children and their families. Schools and childcare facilities are places the flu can spread easily.  If the virus changes to cause more severe disease later on, or if absenteeism at schools is so high that the schools cannot function, school dismissal may happen again.  Schools will not close because of one or two cases of H1N1 flu.

What do I need to consider if my child has to stay at home sick?

  • Do not send a sick child to another group child care program
  • Make plans for home care for children that become ill
  • Talk to your employer about how you will manage if you or your child becomes ill
  • Check with your teacher about home learning activities

Can my sick child go back to school as soon as he or she feels better?
Students and staff with flu like illness should stay home for at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever, or signs of fever, without the use of fever-reducing medications. 

 

FLU VACCINES

How many flu shots do I need this year?
Three! The regular seasonal flu shot and two doses of H1N1 vaccine.

Does the seasonal flu vaccine also protect against the novel H1N1 flu?
NO. The seasonal flu vaccine does NOT protect against the novel H1N1 flu.

Can the seasonal vaccine and the novel H1N1 vaccine be given at the same time?
YES.  The seasonal fly vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine can be both taken at the same time.

Who should get the H1N1 vaccine?
Both seasonal flu and H1N1 flu vaccine is recommended for people 6 months and older, including people over 65.

Where can I get the H1N1 vaccine?
Free vaccines are available at the City of Berkeley Public Health Clinic.  CLICK HERE for information on vaccination clinic times and location. 

Doctor's offices, pharmacies and other sites also offer H1N1 vaccine.  

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OTHER

Is it safe to travel?
The H1N1 is widespread and established in many countries including the US.  Therefore there are no restrictions in travel to any countries at this point. Travel notices are available on the CDC Swine Flu web page at www.cdc.gov/travel.  At this time, there are no restrictions for travel within the U.S.

Can I get H1N1 flu from eating or preparing pork, bacon, and ham?
No. Swine flu viruses are not spread by food. You cannot get swine flu from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

For further information, please see the following websites; call the Berkeley City Public Health Division at (510) 981-5300; or call the California Department of Public Health H1N1 Flu Hotline at 1-888-865-0564, 8am to 5pm, 7 days a week.  

City of Berkeley Public Health:
www.CityofBerkeley.info/publichealth

California Department of Public Health:
www.cdph.ca.gov/HealthInfo/discond/Pages/SwineInfluenza.aspx  

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu 

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