With approximately 40,000 H1N1 cases in the United States and more than 1,400 in Germany, it is no surprise there are confirmed H1N1 cases within the KMC.
The KMC medical community continues to test sick patients with influenza-like symptoms with confirmatory results taking a few days.
Since its emergence in April, the symptoms of H1N1 influenza are still similar to those of seasonal flu: fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Many infected people have also reported diarrhea and vomiting.
Symptoms typically last about a week. People may be contagious from one day before they develop symptoms to up to seven days after they initially feel sick.
H1N1 influenza is spread mainly by close contact with infected people through coughing and sneezing. Within the local military community, presumptive and confirmed cases are put on convalescent leave for seven days after symptoms begin or until patients are symptom-free for 24 hours, whichever is longer. This is at the discretion of the health care provider.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the population at high risk for serious complications from H1N1 influenza is similar to those at risk of serious complications from seasonal flu: people 65 years and older, children younger than 5, pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease) and people who are immunosuppressed (e.g., taking immunosuppressive medications or are infected with HIV).
Prevention recommendations are the same as for seasonal influenza: cover the nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing to limit the spread of germs, avoid contact with individuals who are sick, practice good personal hygiene like frequent hand washing and keep informed by visiting www.cdc.org.
If you have cold and influenza-like symptoms, communicate with your work supervisor and stay home to avoid contact with others. This may include coordinating friends and family to drop off food and supplies to limit public exposure.
If caring for or housing individuals who are sick, wear disposable gloves when handling trash or dirty linens, frequently empty the trash, keep windows open to ensure good ventilation, wipe down surfaces frequently with a household disinfectant, use disposable items whenever possible (paper towels, cleaning wipes), clean utensils and personal items separately with soap and water and avoid “hugging” laundry and other used items to prevent contaminating yourself.
If close contact (within 6 feet) is unavoidable, consider wearing a facemask, if available and tolerable. Facemasks can be purchased at hardware, home supply and pharmacy stores. Monitor such individuals for influenza complications by communicating with them often. From a prevention standpoint, a phone call is safer than a visit. Those at high risk for influenza-associated complications should not be the designated caretaker, if possible.
If you think you may have been exposed to someone with H1N1, call your health care provider at 479-2273. For those who have flu-like symptoms or are positive with H1N1 and have persisting symptoms, call your health care provider for further advice. As with any respiratory infection, symptomatic people are expected to wear a facemask in medical facilities to prevent spreading the infection to others.
Facemasks are available in our clinics for use during clinic visits.
For more information or for regular updates, visit the CDC Web site at www.cdc.gov.