Novel influenza A H1N1 (swine flu) is a new flu virus of swine origin that was first detected in April 2009. On June 11, 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised the worldwide pandemic alert level to Phase 6 in response to the ongoing global spread of the novel influenza A (H1N1) virus. A Phase 6 designation indicates that a global pandemic is underway. WHO’s decision to raise the pandemic alert level to Phase 6 is a reflection of the spread of the virus, not the severity of illness caused by the virus.
It’s uncertain at this time how serious or severe this novel H1N1 pandemic will be in terms of how many people infected will develop serious complications or die from novel H1N1 infection. Experience with this virus so far is limited and influenza is unpredictable. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is taking action to control the outbreak, communities, businesses, places of worship, schools, and individuals can also take steps to slow the spread.
Novel H1N1 flu spreads when sick people cough or sneeze flu germs onto others or onto surfaces that someone else may touch. Whether you're at home, work, school or running daily errands, you can help prevent the flu by washing your hands often with soap and water and avoiding contact with sick people.
Sometimes you won't have access to running water, so you might want to carry hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. If you can, it's best to use soap and water because hand sanitizer doesn't remove soil and other material that might be on your hands.
The symptoms are similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills or fatigue. Some people with novel H1N1 flu have also reported diarrhea or vomiting. Severe illness, including pneumonia or respiratory failure, as well as death, can occur. Like seasonal flu, novel H1N1 flu may worsen underlying chronic medical conditions.
If you live in an area where novel H1N1 flu infections have been reported, and if you become ill with flu-like symptoms, you may want to contact your health care provider, particularly if you're worried about your symptoms.