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How can I reduce the impact of H1N1 influenza at UP? Getting the flu vaccine, covering your cough and sneeze, good handwashing, and appropriately treating symptoms should they arise.
When can I get the H1N1 flu vaccine? The vaccine should be ready by mid-October. It will require a booster shot a few weeks later. These shots are independent from the shot for regular seasonal flu so you will need three shots this fall. People at higher risk for complications from influenza should be especially careful to receive both vaccines. Those include pregnant women and people with chronic conditions involving the respiratory tract (including asthma), heart (excluding hypertension), or kidneys.
What is good cough and sneeze etiquette? Cough or sneeze into a Kleenex and dispose immediately. No Kleenex available? Then cough or sneeze into your sleeve, not into your hands. Always wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer immediately after. If you have influenza, wearing a face mask can significantly lessen the risk of contagion.
What is social distancing and who should practice this? Influenza is spread by respiratory droplets. Maintaining a distance of 6 feet from others or at least not talking directly into other’s faces cuts risk of transmission. Unfortunately, the day or so between exposure and development of symptoms (the incubation period) is one of the most infectious times. Even people who feel well should practice safe habits to minimize risk to others.
What happens if my roommate is sick? We anticipate that the numbers of people getting the flu will be such that changing rooms will not be feasible. Roommates of sick students will probably have already been exposed during the incubation period. Sick roommates should avoid talking into other’s faces and may consider wearing a mask. Anti-virals like Tamiflu may reduce the likelihood of illness for well roommates with chronic medical conditions.
Can I get influenza from eating in the dining halls? There is no evidence that flu can be transmitted through food. People congregate in the dining halls, making flu transmission more likely.
What symptoms suggest I might have influenza? Symptoms include fever > 100 degrees, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some also have vomiting and diarrhea.
Should I come to the health center if I have symptoms? People at higher risk of complications or those exhibiting symptoms suggesting complications should call the triage nurse at the health center. Others should self-manage their symptoms at home and not risk exposing more people by coming to the health center. Students who need to be seen at the health center should call first to minimize exposures. Symptoms suggesting complication include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting , or f lu-like symptoms which improve but then return with fever and worse cough.
How should I manage my symptoms at home? Get plenty of rest and fluids. Monitor your temperature with a thermometer and use Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Motrin) to keep your fever down. Cover your cough and sneeze. Consider wearing a mask and telling close contacts that you have the flu. Monitor for complications. Minimize contact with others until you have been without fever for 24 hours.
What complications can occur? Dehydration, pneumonia and respiratory distress are the most common.
What are symptoms of dehydration? Fevers and sometimes vomiting can put you at risk for dehydration. Symptoms include thirst, dizziness, palpitations (rapid heartbeat), fainting, decreased concentrated urination and confusion. Mild symptoms can usually be self-managed by drinking fluids with electrolytes; e.g. Gatorade, non-diet clear sodas, apple juice, etc. More severe symptoms may necessitate IV fluids. Call the health center and discuss with triage nurse if symptoms are significant.
What are symptoms of pneumonia or respiratory distress? Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, fevers that cannot be controlled or return after being gone for 24 hours, or pain or pressure in chest. People with these symptoms can discuss by phone with a triage nurse at the health center or go directly to an emergency room.
Are there medications that can treat Influenza? Tamiflu (Oseltamivir) is an antiviral medication which, if started within 48 hours of onset of symptoms, may lessen the length of illness by a day or so. Current recommendations include reserving its use for those at risk for complications from influenza, both to maintain the supply and to prevent resistance.
What supplies should I have available in case I get sick? Have a digital thermometer to monitor your temperature. Have Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Motrin) to use for fever control. Also have a good supply of powdered rehydration mix.