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Emergency Guidelines for the Campus Community

H1N1 (Swine) Influenza: Frequently Asked Questions

Last updated: February 5, 2010

Health Questions

H1N1 Flu General Health Questions

H1N1 Flu Vaccine Questions

H1N1 Flu General Health Questions

What is H1N1 (swine) flu?

H1N1 (swine) flu is a respiratory disease caused by the type A influenza virus. It is a new influenza virus causing illness in people worldwide, and it was first detected in people in the United States in April 2009. This virus is spreading from person-to-person, probably in much the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread. Like seasonal flu, H1N1 flu in humans can vary in severity from mild to severe.

What are the symptoms of H1N1 flu?

The symptoms of H1N1 flu are similar to seasonal influenza and include fever with cough and/or sore throat. Some people with flu have also reported body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, diarrhea and vomiting.

How do you catch H1N1 flu?

The current strain of H1N1 influenza circulating around the world is contagious and is believed to be spreading among humans in the same way that the seasonal flu spreads. Influenza is thought to spread primarily person-to-person through coughing or sneezing by infected people, or when someone touches something with flu viruses on it and then touches their mouth or nose. Infected people may be able to spread the virus to others beginning one day (24 hours) before symptoms develop, and up to seven or more days after becoming sick. This means it is important to practice good hygiene at all times, even if you have not developed symptoms, in order to reduce the risk of spreading sickness. [See also the question below: What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?]

How do I know if my symptoms are H1N1 flu or seasonal flu? **Updated 2/5/10**

It will be difficult to determine if someone who is sick has the new H1N1 flu virus or seasonal flu because the symptoms are very similar. Given the worldwide presence of H1N1 flu, federal and state health officials are not recommending laboratory tests to determine in all cases whether an ill person has H1N1 flu. Anyone who has flu-like symptoms should stay home during illness and for at least 24 hours after fever is gone and limit contact with others in order to prevent the spread of illness.

What’s the incubation period for H1N1 flu?

Flu symptoms usually develop within three to four days of contact with an infected person, though it may take up to seven days.

What should I do if I develop flu-like symptoms? **UPDATED 2-5-10**

Following a sharp decline in the number of flu-like illness cases on campus and nationwide since January 2010, University Health Services recommends that students and employees with flu-like symptoms follow routine standards of care as they would for any contagious illness (See the specific recommendations for students and for faculty/staff listed below).

In light of the decline in cases, University Health Services is temporarily suspending its directive that students with flu-like symptoms call UHS for medical evaluation. All students with flu-like symptoms (i.e. fever with cough and/or sore throat) should now go to McCosh Health Center for an in-person evaluation. An in-person evaluation will help UHS staff better determine if there is another cause of students' symptoms, such as pneumonia, that may require different treatment than flu.

If there is another wave of influenza on campus, the directive for students with flu-like symptoms to be evaluated at McCosh Health Center rather than by phone will be re-examined in order to provide the best public health response for the University community.

Students: Students experiencing flu-like symptoms (i.e. fever with cough and/or sore throat) should be examined at University Health Services. Students should come to the McCosh Health Center or make a same-day appointment for examination by calling (609) 258-3141. An in-person evaluation will help medical staff better determine if there is another cause of the students' symptoms, such as pneumonia, that may require different treatment than flu. This also will allow UHS to monitor patients for a possible new wave of influenza.

Consistent with CDC guidance, it is still recommended that students diagnosed with flu-like illness should stay in their rooms during illness and for at least 24 hours after fever is gone. Students also should limit contact with others, except to seek medical care. Students who live within driving distance of the University may choose to return to their homes for the duration of their illness.
[See also Student Questions section for more information.]

Faculty and Staff: Faculty and staff experiencing flu-like symptoms (i.e. fever with cough and/or sore throat) should not come to work and should stay at home during illness and for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone. Individuals also should limit contact with others, except to get medical care. Employees feeling sick should notify their supervisor of their absence from work and contact their personal physicians. Employees who do not have a personal physician and who would like a list of physicians in the Princeton area should call Employee Health Services at (609) 258-5035 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. [See also Employee Questions section for more information.].

What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?

The most effective way to prevent influenza and its complications is to get vaccinated. The H1N1 vaccine is now widely available, and all individuals are encouraged to get vaccinated. [See 'H1N1 Flu Vaccine Questions' for more information.]

It also is important to practice good hygiene at all times, and there are everyday actions people can take to stay healthy:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and properly dispose of the tissue. If you do not have a tissue, sneeze or cough into the bend of your arm rather than into your hands to reduce the spread of germs.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

What does it mean to self-isolate during illness?

Faculty, staff and students diagnosed with flu or flu-like illness should self-isolate in their dorm rooms or homes until they are no longer contagious. The guideline is to remain isolated during illness and for at least 24 hours after the ill person's fever is gone, except to get medical care (fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine).

Students who live within driving distance of the university may be asked to return to their homes for the duration of their illness. Students who remain on campus should stay away from others and eat meals in their dorm room (students should make arrangements for friends to deliver meals to their room because students with flu will not be permitted in the dining halls, and will be discouraged from eating at off-campus clubs and other communal dining settings). All undergraduate students should contact the Director of Student Life (DSL) in your residential college that you are beginning self-isolation and discuss whether you need assistance with residential/dining matters. DSLs are available to help ALL undergraduates living in or affiliated with a residential college. Graduate students should notify community programs coordinator Olivia Martel at (609) 258-6686 or omartel@princeton.edu. [For more information, see the "Student Questions" section] 

To reduce the spread of illness, sick individuals should cover their mouths and noses when coughing and sneezing and wash hands frequently.
For more information on self-isolation guidelines, see the University Health Services influenza self-care fact sheet.

Are there confirmed cases of H1N1 flu in New Jersey?

New Jersey state health officials first reported on April 30, 2009, that positive cases of H1N1 influenza were present in the state.

Are there any cases of H1N1 flu on campus? **UPDATED 2/5/10**

The University continues to experience cases of flu and flu-like illness on campus, though the number of cases has sharply declined since January 2010.

Given the widespread incidences of illness nationally, federal and state health authorities are no longer recommending laboratory tests to confirm whether an ill person has H1N1 flu.

State and University health officials confirmed in June 2009 the first four cases on campus that tested positive for H1N1 influenza. The affected campus members were mildly ill when they were tested, and all have since been treated with antiviral medication and are fully recovered.

Is another major outbreak of H1N1 flu expected? **Added 2/5/10**

During most years, medical experts are able to predict there will be an outbreak of seasonal influenza between January and March. Medical experts at this time are uncertain whether the novel H1N1 flu will replace seasonal influenza, and if it does, if another wave of H1N1 flu would occur. The best protection against another wave of flu is to receive the H1N1 flu vaccine.

I am a visitor on campus and am experiencing flu-like symptoms. What should I do?

If you are a visitor to campus and would like to be seen by a health care provider, practitioners at Princeton Primary and Urgent Care Center, an independent health care facility in Princeton, N.J., may be available to see you. Visitors can call Princeton Primary and Urgent Care Center at (609) 919-0009 for further information or to schedule an appointment. [For more information, see the Visitor Flu Symptom Advisory]

Are there anti-virals that I can take? **UPDATED 2/5/10**

Antiviral drugs can be used to treat H1N1 flu or to prevent infection with H1N1 flu viruses, and they must be prescribed by a health care professional.

Because most people ill with flu will recover without complications, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is currently not recommending treatment with antiviral drugs for people who are not at higher risk for flu complications or do not have severe influenza.

Federal and state health authorities currently recommend antiviral treatment for certain groups: hospitalized individuals; individuals with flu-like illness who have pre-existing medical conditions that cause them to be at higher risk for flu complications (e.g., pregnant women, individuals with chronic illnesses such as asthma and diabetes, and individuals with compromised immune systems); and individuals with influenza whose medical condition appears to be significantly worsening.

Students who have questions about whether it would be appropriate to start antiviral treatment should contact University Health Services at (609) 258-3141. UHS also will review the need for a prescription for antiviral medication for high risk individuals who will be traveling to locations where antiviral medications may not be readily available. [See Travel FAQ section for more information]

Employees who have questions about whether it would be appropriate to start antiviral treatment should contact their personal physician.

Should people take extra measures, like wearing surgical masks to avoid exposure? **UPDATED 2/5/10**

The use of a face mask by an individual with flu is thought to decrease the transmission of the flu virus to others. Therefore, individuals with flu may consider wearing a face mask when others are present or if they must leave their room (i.e. to use a communal bathroom or to seek medical assistance).

After being evaluated by University Health Services, ill students may be provided a mask to prevent the spread of illness to healthy roommates or if others need to be present in their room.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently not recommending the use of facemasks for healthy individuals who are not in a high risk category. All individuals are encouraged to continue practice good hygiene and take the normal precautions to protect themselves as they would from regular seasonal flu. [See the above question: What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?]

Should you choose to purchase a facemask, masks cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as medical devices have been determined to help protect penetration of blood and body fluids. This includes facemasks labeled as surgical, dental, medical procedure, isolation or laser masks, and these typically are available for purchase at local pharmacies, supermarkets or hardware stores.

I am a visitor on campus and am experiencing flu-like symptoms. What should I do?

If you are a visitor to campus and would like to be seen by a health care provider, practitioners at Princeton Primary and Urgent Care Center, an independent health care facility in Princeton, N.J., may be available to see you. Visitors can call Princeton Primary and Urgent Care Center at (609) 919-0009 for further information or to schedule an appointment. [For more information, see the Visitor Flu Symptom Advisory]

 

H1N1 Flu Vaccine Questions

Is there a vaccine available to protect me against H1N1 flu? **UPDATED 2/5/10**

The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services is overseeing distribution of the vaccine in the state.  H1N1 flu vaccines are now widely available throughout the state, and many public health agencies are holding vaccine clinics for the general public.

Individuals may call New Jersey's H1N1 Information Hotline at 1-866-321-9571 or visit the New Jersey Flu Finder website to find a local vaccine clinic scheduled in their area: http://www.nj.gov/health/flu/findflushot.shtml. For information about public vaccine clinics organized by the Princeton Regional Health Department visit: http://www.princetonhealthoffice.org/polAnnouncements.cfm

Although the state is now offering H1N1 vaccine to the general public, health officials continues to emphasize the importance for people in target groups to be vaccinated because they are at higher risk for complications of H1N1. These groups include:

  • Pregnant women
  • Household contacts and caregivers for children younger than 6 months of age
  • Healthcare and emergency medical services personnel
  • All people from 6 months through 24 years of age
  • Persons aged 25 through 64 years who have health conditions associated with higher risk of medical complications from influenza.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began distributing limited quantities of an H1N1 flu vaccine to providers across the country in fall 2009, following health prioritization guidelines for the order in which individuals were eligible to receive the vaccine. State health officials announced in late December 2009 that there was enough vaccine supply so that providers could begin offering vaccines to everyone, lifting the restrictions that had previously limited the vaccine to people considered at high risk.

How will the H1N1 flu vaccine be distributed on campus and who is eligible to receive the vaccine?

The first doses of the vaccine were made available to the University in early November, and H1N1 flu vaccines were offered to members of the University community at vaccine clinics throughout the fall and winter. The University does not have plans to schedule another vaccine clinic on campus at this time.

The University held vaccine clinics on Nov. 4, 10, 16, 24 and Dec. 3, 2009 and on Jan. 8 and Jan. 15, 2010, with the last two clinics open to all faculty, staff, students and dependents age 10 and older.

The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services is overseeing distribution of the vaccine in the state. In order to be eligible to receive the vaccine from the state, providers had to agree to distribute vaccinations according to the CDC's prioritization guidelines.

Vaccines are now widely available throughout the state and individuals may visit the New Jersey Flu Finder website to find a local vaccine clinic scheduled in their area: http://www.nj.gov/health/flu/findflushot.shtml.

Are the H1N1 flu vaccines safe?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects the 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine will have a similar safety profile as seasonal flu vaccines, which have a very good safety track record. The H1N1 vaccine is made using the same processes and facilities that are used to make the currently licensed seasonal influenza vaccines. Over the years, hundreds of millions of Americans have received seasonal flu vaccines. The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration will be closely monitoring for any signs that the vaccine is causing unexpected adverse events and will work with state and local health officials to investigate any unusual events.

The CDC and FDA believe that the benefits of vaccination with the H1N1 flu vaccine far outweigh any possible risks, especially for the high priority health groups who may be at greater risk of developing complications from H1N1 flu, such as pregnant women and individuals with pre-existing medical conditions.

Vaccination is the best way to prevent influenza infection and its complications, and members of the University community are encouraged to make every effort to take advantage of the resources available to them to maintain good health.

For more information, visit the CDC Vaccine Safety website:
http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/vaccine_safety_qa.htm

Students with specific concerns about receiving the H1N1 vaccine should contact University Health Services at (609) 258-3141 or uhs@princeton.edu. Faculty and staff with concerns about receiving the H1N1 vaccine should contact their personal physician.

Are there any side effects to the H1N1 flu vaccine?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that it expects any side effects following vaccination with the H1N1 flu vaccine would be rare. If side effects occur, they likely will be similar to those experienced following seasonal influenza vaccine, such as soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given, headaches, muscle aches, fever or nausea.

Individuals receiving the vaccine should also be aware that adverse events or possible side effects following vaccination may be coincidental, meaning that they occurred around the same time of vaccination but are not related to the vaccine.

For more information, visit the CDC Vaccine Safety website: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/vaccine_safety_qa.htm

Why are some lots of the nasal spray 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine being recalled from the market?

First, it is important to point out that the recall is not safety-related. The CDC and Food and Drug Administration voluntarily recalled limited doses of the H1N1 nasal spray vaccine in December 2009 as part of a quality assurance program. According to the CDC, unused doses of the vaccine were recalled because they had a slight decrease in potency, though the decrease is not expected to reduce the effectiveness of those vaccines.

There are no safety concerns with the recalled doses. Individuals who may have received nasal spray vaccines from the recalled doses do not need to take any action and do not need to get vaccinated again.

For more information, visit the CDC Vaccine Safety website: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/sprayrecall_qa.htm

Are there some people who should not receive the H1N1 flu vaccine?

People who have a severe (life-threatening) allergy to chicken eggs or to any other substance in the vaccine and infants less than six months old should not be vaccinated.  For more information about substances in the H1N1 vaccine, visit the CDC Vaccine Safety website: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/vaccine_safety_qa.htm

How will the H1N1 flu vaccines be monitored for safety?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration closely monitor the safety of vaccines licensed for use in the United States in cooperation with state and local health departments, healthcare providers and other partners. The CDC and its partners will use multiple systems to monitor the safety of the H1N1 flu vaccine.

The purpose of vaccine safety monitoring is to identify significant adverse events following immunization that may be of public health concern. Individuals receiving the vaccine should be aware that adverse events or possible side effects following vaccination may be coincidental, meaning that they occurred around the same time of vaccination but are not related to the vaccine.

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Last update: 05-Feb-2010 11:32 AM
Web page comments or errors: Robin Izzo.