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What can I do to protect myself from
catching influenza A (H1N1)?
The main route of transmission of the new
influenza A(H1N1) virus seems to be similar
to seasonal influenza, via droplets that are
expelled by speaking, sneezing or coughing.
You can prevent getting infected by avoiding
close contact with people who show
influenza-like symptoms (trying to maintain
a distance of about 1 metre if possible) and
taking the following measures:
avoid touching your mouth and nose;
clean hands thoroughly with soap and
water, or cleanse them with an
alcohol-based hand rub on a regular
basis (especially if touching the mouth
and nose, or surfaces that are
avoid close contact with people who
might be ill;
reduce the time spent in crowded
settings if possible;
improve airflow in your living space by
practise good health habits including
adequate sleep, eating nutritious food,
and keeping physically active.
What about using a mask? What does WHO
If you are not sick you do not have to wear
If you are caring for a sick person, you can
wear a mask when you are in close contact
with the ill person and dispose of it
immediately after contact, and cleanse your
hands thoroughly afterwards.
If you are sick and must travel or be around
others, cover your mouth and nose.
Using a mask correctly in all situations is
essential. Incorrect use actually increases
the chance of spreading infection.
How do I know if I have influenza A(H1N1)?
You will not be able to tell the difference
between seasonal flu and influenza A(H1N1)
without medical help. Typical symptoms to
watch for are similar to seasonal viruses
and include fever, cough, headache, body
aches, sore throat and runny nose. Only your
medical practitioner and local health
authority can confirm a case of influenza
What should I do if I think I have the
If you feel unwell, have high fever, cough
or sore throat:
stay at home and keep away from work,
school or crowds;
rest and take plenty of fluids;
cover your nose and mouth when coughing
and sneezing and, if using tissues, make
sure you dispose of them carefully.
Clean your hands immediately after with
soap and water or cleanse them with an
alcohol-based hand rub;
if you do not have a tissue close by
when you cough or sneeze, cover your
mouth as much as possible with the crook
of your elbow;
use a mask to help you contain the
spread of droplets when you are around
others, but be sure to do so correctly;
inform family and friends about your
illness and try to avoid contact with
If possible, contact a health
professional before traveling to a
health facility to discuss whether a
medical examination is necessary.
Should I take an antiviral now just in case
I catch the new virus?
No, individuals should not buy medicines to
prevent or fight this new influenza without
a prescription, and they should exercise
caution in buying antivirals over the
What about breastfeeding? Should I stop if I
No, not unless your health care provider
advises it. Studies on other influenza
infections show that breastfeeding is most
likely protective for babies - it passes on
helpful maternal immunities and lowers the
risk of respiratory disease. Breastfeeding
provides the best overall nutrition for
babies and increases their defense factors
to fight illness.
When should someone seek medical care?
A person should seek medical care if they
experience shortness of breath or difficulty
breathing, or if a fever continues more than
three days. For parents with a young child
who is ill, seek medical care if a child has
fast or labored breathing, continuing fever
or convulsions (seizures).
Supportive care at home - resting, drinking
plenty of fluids and using a pain reliever
for aches - is adequate for recovery in most
cases. (A non-aspirin pain reliever should
be used by children and young adults because
of the risk of Reye's syndrome.)