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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

(From the Centers for Disease Control and the Virginia Department of Health)

 

What is swine flu?
H1N1 Influenza ("swine flu") is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that causes regular outbreaks in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can and do happen. Swine flu viruses have been reported to spread from person-to-person, but in the past, this transmission was limited and not sustained beyond three people.

What are the symptoms in humans?

Symptoms in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu: fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported vomiting and diarrhea.

How does swine flu spread?
Spread of this swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is thought to be happening in the same way that seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing of people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

How can someone with the flu infect someone else?
Infected people may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to seven or more days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

What is the incubation period after exposure?
About 1-4 days. If a week has gone by from when you know you were exposed, it's not likely you will get sick.

How long can an infected person spread swine flu to others?
People with swine influenza virus infection should be considered potentially contagious as long as they are symptomatic and possibly for up to seven days following illness onset. Children, especially younger children, might potentially be contagious for longer periods.

What surfaces are most likely to be sources of contamination?
Germs can be spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth. Droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air. Germs can be spread when a person touches commonly used shared surface like a desk, keyboard, door handle, etc. and then touches their own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands.

How long can viruses live outside the body?
We know that some viruses and bacteria can live two hours or longer on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs and desks. Frequent hand washing will help you reduce the chance of getting contamination from these common surfaces.

Are there medicines to treat the new (H1N1) virus?
Antivirals don't cure you of flu, but they do work to lessen the duration and severity of symptoms. CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir or zanamivir for the treatment and/or prevention of infection. Influenza antiviral drugs work best when started soon after symptoms appear, usually within two days. You must have a prescription to receive these medications.

How can I get antivirals?
VDH does not recommend that people who are healthy seek prescriptions for antivirals. Misuse of these medicines will lessen their effectiveness in fighting the virus. If people have flu-like symptoms and are concerned, they should contact their doctors. Doctors will determine whether patients meet the CDC case definition for a suspected case of the new (H1N1) virus, and if so, schedule testing and appropriate treatment, which may include prescribing an antiviral.

How many doses are in a course of antivirals?
A course is about five days of medication.

What if my pharmacy doesn't have antivirals?
Based on our recent discussions with pharmacies and distributors, we know that commercial supplies in Virginia are adequate to meet the current need. Antivirals are available commercial at pharmacies because these drugs are used routinely to treat seasonal flu. A local pharmacy may experience a delay in receiving their order of medicines, but that does not mean antivirals are not available in the community or in Virginia.

Should masks be used?
Some individuals in locations where the virus has been confirmed are choosing to wear masks when they are in crowded settings. These masks may look more effective than they are.

  • Where the new (H1N1) virus has been confirmed, people should avoid close contact with ill persons and avoid being in crowded settings rather than relying on the use of facemasks or respirators.
  • People who enter crowded settings might choose to wear a facemask. Wearing a facemask can protect the nose and mouth from other people's coughs and also reduce your likelihood of coughing on others. Time spent in crowded settings should be as short as possible.

How can people decrease the spread of the new (H1N1) virus?
Taking the following steps can decrease the spread of flu:

  • Frequent hand washing
  • Covering coughs
  • Having ill persons stay home, except to seek medical care
  • Minimizing contact with others
  • Having household members of cases minimize contact in the community, to the extent possible
  • Reducing unnecessary social contacts
  • Avoiding crowded settings, when possible.

What is Virginia Department of Health telling schools to do?
Local governments make decisions about school closings. Each locality in Virginia has an emergency plan. Contact your local government or school district to find out about their plan.
Parents are encouraged to keep children home from school if they are ill. If your child is absent from school for any reason, please report the absence to you child's school.

If I get this flu, can I get it again?
We are learning new information about the virus every day, but we don't yet know about getting it multiple times or becoming re-infected. We do know that with seasonal flu, a person can become re-infected if the virus changes slightly. When a person becomes infected with influenza, he develops antibodies against that particular virus. These antibodies might not recognize a new version of the virus if it changes - or mutates - and so the person can get sick again when they come in contact with the changed virus.

Is seasonal flu more deadly than the new (H1N1) virus?
We are still learning about the new (H1N1) virus. CDC has said it appears to be similar to seasonal flu. Virginia is prepared in case the situation should become more severe.

Will classes be cancelled?
Based on the latest advice from the Centers for Disease Control, we do not anticipate cancelling classes or any public events at the University. However, officials will be monitoring the situation closely.

How will Washington and Lee notify me about the presence of H1N1 on the campus?
This Web site will be updated frequently as news about the flu is available. In addition, the University will use mass emails when necessary to provide the latest information.

If a students misses a class because he/she has the flu, what should she/he do?

  • Contact faculty members and let them know you will return to class 24 hours after the fever has subsided.
  • Ask a "flu buddy," someone designated to assist during the illness, to assist with meals, assignments, etc.

Where is the Student Health Center and when is it open?
The Student Health Center is located in the lower level of Davis residence hall. It is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The nurse on duty takes a meal break from 12-1 PM and 6-7 PM each day, but remains on site for urgent health needs. When the law school only is in session, the Health Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A University physician is available on call to the nurse on duty every day that the Student Health Center is open.