H1N1 Flu: FAQs

To: Wellesley College students, families and campus community

From: Wellesley College Health Service

Subject: H1N1 Flu: FAQs

Date: Sept. 10, 2009

What is H1N1 flu?
Flu is a disease of the body’s respiratory system, including the nose, throat and lungs. Flu is short for Influenza. H1N1 flu is caused by a new virus that was first recognized in April 2009 and was called “swine flu.” H1N1 flu quickly spread to many parts of the world and is now considered a pandemic, or global, outbreak. The name “swine flu” was changed to H1N1 flu because H1N1 is not the same as swine flu, a virus that pigs can get.

Is H1N1 flu the same as the seasonal flu?
It is not the same as seasonal flu, which occurs every year during the winter and early spring. However, H1N1 flu causes symptoms that are similar to seasonal flu, is spread like seasonal flu and can be prevented in the same way as seasonal flu.

What are the symptoms of H1N1 flu?
H1N1 flu symptoms are very similar to seasonal flu symptoms. Most common are fever (usually > 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius), cough and sore throat. Symptoms can also include body aches, headache, chills, runny nose and feeling very tired. Some people also have diarrhea and vomiting. Symptoms last from a few days to up to a week or more.

How does H1N1 flu spread?
The flu virus is contained in the wet spray (droplets of saliva and mucous) that comes out of the nose and mouth when someone with the flu coughs or sneezes. Flu is spread easily from person to person.

If you are close enough to a person with the flu (up to about six feet away) when they cough or sneeze you can breathe in the virus and get sick.

The virus can also live for a short time on things you touch like doorknobs and phones. After you touch these objects, you can catch the virus when you touch your mouth, nose or eyes. However, when the wet droplets on these types of objects dry out, the virus can’t cause infection.

Adults with the H1N1 flu can spread it from about one day before symptoms appear to about one week after. Children can spread the flu even longer after they get sick. Flu symptoms start 1 - 4 days (usually 2 days) after a person breathes in the virus.

How do I know if I have H1N1 flu?
If you have symptoms of the flu at this time of year, it is likely H1N1 flu. Assess your symptoms and call the Health Service at x2810.

If you have been told that you likely have the flu, stay home from school and work, and avoid all contact with others so you do not spread the virus. Clinicians will likely not test for influenza since the test will not be helpful to the management of your care.

What if I am told I have, or likely have, H1N1 flu?
Stay home from school and work if you get sick with flu-like illness and avoid contact with others so the virus does not spread. Stay at home until you have been free from fever for at least 24 hours after your last dose of fever-reducing medication (see below). For most people this will mean staying at home for about 4 days.

How is H1N1 flu treated?
People sick with any type of flu should make sure to drink plenty of fluids, get plenty of rest, eat healthy foods, wash their hands frequently and stay home to avoid spreading the flu to other people. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil® or Motrin®), may help people with the flu feel more comfortable and reduce their fever. Children and teens with the flu should never take aspirin, because a rare but serious disease called Reye syndrome can occur.

There are special drugs available that your doctor may prescribe to treat H1N1 flu if your medical history warrants them. The drugs work best if begun soon after the start of symptoms. Your doctor can determine if you need treatment.

How often should I check my temperature and what should I do with the results?
Use a digital thermometer. TAKE YOUR TEMPERATURE BEFORE TAKING ANY FEVER REDUCING MEDICATION. We suggest checking your temperature 3 times/day: upon awakening and then once every 8 hours. Write down your temperature and the severity of your other symptoms (on a scale of 1 – 10 with 1 being mild and 10 being extremely uncomfortable). Your health care provider will ask you about these when checking in.

What can I do to relieve aches, pains or a fever?
Take 1000 mg of acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or 400 mg of ibuprofen (Advil® or Motrin®) until you feel better and your temperature falls below 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). 

Where will I be housed and who will take care of making necessary arrangements for me (and my roommate(s))?
Once the Health Service has determined that you have, or likely have, H1N1 flu, Residential Life staff will be notified.  They will coordinate housing arrangements with you directly.

What should I have in my room to take care of myself?
Have a digital thermometer, pain reliever as described above, tissues, dry packets of soup to mix with warm water, plenty of water and Gatorade®. You may also wish to keep lozenges and some other snacks on hand.

Where can I get supplies like a thermometer?
A “flu friend” can take down your list of supplies to CVS or Andrews Pharmacy, both nearby. Avoid direct contact by speaking via phone or e-mail and paying your friend back once you are well. Your resident director (RD) will only have a very small supply of items. Your RD can help you identify a “flu friend” who can help. If financial concerns limit your access to necessary supplies, speak with your RD.

How will I get meals and/or food?
Members of the Residential Life team, student volunteers or a designated friend will help coordinate meals for you. Wellesley College Dining Services has arranged to make to-go containers available to anyone helping an ill student. These are available for breakfast, lunch and dinner at all Dining Hall locations.

Who should I let know that I am ill?
Contact your family, as well as your Class Dean and professors. All members of the community are aware of the likelihood that many Wellesley College students may become ill with H1N1 flu. All have been advised to excuse absences from classes, exams, other activities and delayed assignments as a result. Many faculty and administrative staff members have also offered to conduct phone meetings if necessary.

It is essential for your own well-being as well as others that you stay at home until you have been free from fever for at least 24 hours after your last dose of fever-reducing medication.

For how long will I be out of school, work and other activities?
Plan on an absence of about 4 to 5 days. Depending on your symptoms, you may be able to return sooner or need to stay home longer. Remember, it is essential for your own well-being as well as others that you stay at home until you have been free from fever for at least 24 hours after your last dose of fever-reducing medication.

Who will check on me?
A member of the Health Service team will check in with you by telephone at least once a day. Members of the Residential Life team may stop by or call as well. Try to discourage friends and family from visiting due to the ease of spreading H1N1 flu from person-to-person. Instead, talk with them via phone, text, email and other means.

Who should I contact if my symptoms get worse?
Call the Health Service immediately if your symptoms worsen. Dial x2810 or 781-283-2810. Avoid going to the Health Service without an appointment.  If you need urgent assistance after hours, dial x2810. For emergencies, call Campus Police at x5555.

For more information, visit www.wellesley.edu/health, the Centers for Disease Control at www.flu.gov or call 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636).

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