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H1N1 Health Banner
 

This Web page is no longer being maintained or updated; it is provided for historical purposes only. For current information on seasonal influenza (flu), see the California Department of Public Health Influenza Web page.

 H1N1 Frequently Asked Questions

03 H1N1 Flu Disease FAQs (Prevention)

  • 03.01 What can I do to avoid getting H1N1 flu? How can I protect my family?
  • 03.02 Are there any drugs to prevent H1N1 flu?
  • 03.03 How long does the H1N1 virus last outside the body? I work in an office. What precautions should I take when handling paper documents? 
  • 03.04 What products can I use to clean surfaces to kill the H1N1 virus?
  • 03.05 Should I keep my children at home?
  • 03.06 What steps can pregnant women take to reduce their risk of H1N1 flu infection?
  • 03.07 What are some ways that mothers and caretakers can protect infants from H1N1 flu?
  • 03.08 Should I continue to breastfeed my baby if I have the flu?
  • 03.09 Is it okay to take antiviral medicine to treat or prevent H1N1 flu while breastfeeding?
  • 03.10 Should I wear a mask when caring for ill persons?
  • 03.11 What should I know about using facemasks or respirators to prevent the spread of H1N1 flu?
  • 03.12 I use a N95 respirator to protect myself from viruses. Should I throw away the respirator and get a new one every day?
  • 03.13 What is being done to protect Californians?
  • 03.14 What steps can I take to lessen the spread of novel H1N1 flu to others when caring for someone at home who is sick? 
  • 03.01 What can I do to avoid getting H1N1 flu? How can I protect my family?

    There are 6 main things you should do to help you and others stay healthy:

  • The most important thing you and your family can do is clean your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer, especially after you cough or sneeze.  You may want to use a lotion after washing to prevent your hands from cracking, especially if you wash your hands often.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.  Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it and clean you hands. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow or sleeve.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth since germs spread this way.
  • You will also want to avoid close contact with people who are sick, including being in crowded settings.
  • Also, try to stay in good general health.  Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy food.
  • If you are sick with a flu-like illness, stay home until you have been fever-free for 24 hours without taking any fever-reducing medicines. This is to keep from infecting others and spreading the virus further.
  • 03.02 Are there any drugs to prevent H1N1 flu?

    Yes, there is a group of drugs called antiviral drugs.  There are two types of antiviral drugs the CDC recommends for the treatment and/or prevention of infection with the H1N1 influenza virus currently circulating.  These two drugs are oseltamivir (brand name Tamiflu®) or zanamivir (brand name Relenza®).  These antiviral drugs need to be prescribed by your health care provider.  They fight against the flu in your body by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in your body. If you get sick, antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious flu complications. For treatment, antiviral drugs work best if started soon after getting sick (within 2 days of symptoms).

    Influenza antiviral drugs also can be used to prevent influenza when they are given to a person who is not ill, but who has been or may be near a person with H1N1 influenza. When used to prevent the flu, antiviral drugs are about 70% to 90% effective. When used for prevention, the number of days that they should be used will vary depending on a person’s particular situation. Influenza antiviral drugs only work against influenza viruses -- they may not help treat or prevent symptoms caused by infection from other viruses that can cause symptoms similar to the flu.

    Health care providers should consider treating any person with confirmed or suspected H1N1 influenza with an antiviral drug. Visit: http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/recommendations.htm for specific guidelines for health care providers on the administration of antivirals.  Those without Internet access can also call the CDC hotline at: 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348, 24 hours a day/every day of the week.

    03.03 How long does the H1N1 virus last outside the body? I work in an office. What precautions should I take when handling paper documents?

    Influenza viruses can survive on environmental surfaces like kitchen counters and door knobs, for up to 2-8 hours.
    Germs can be spread when an infected person coughs on or near a surface like a desk, for example, and you touch this surface and then touch your eyes, mouth or nose before cleaning your hands. Many types of surfaces could potentially be contaminated.  The most important precaution you can take to prevent infection from contaminated surfaces is not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth, and to clean your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Wiping frequently touched surfaces like keyboards, door handles, light switches, and counters with sanitizing wipes can reduce germs on those surfaces.

    03.04 What products can I use to clean surfaces to kill the H1N1 virus?

    Alcohol-based product, bleach or hot soapy water will all help in cleaning and disinfecting surfaces in your home or at work, like door knobs or phones. EPA-registered household disinfectants are also effective.

    03.05 Should I keep my children at home?

    If your children are sick with fever and sore throat, cough, or runny nose, keep them at home until they have been fever-free for 24 hours without taking fever-reducing medications.

    03.06 What steps can pregnant women take to reduce their risk of H1N1 flu infection?

    Getting a flu shot is the single best way to protect against the flu.  Pregnant women are at a higher risk of complications from the flu and are being targeted to receive both the H1N1 flu vaccine and seasonal flu vaccine. Talk with your health care provider about getting both a seasonal flu vaccine and the H1N1 flu vaccine.  You will need both flu vaccines this year to be fully protected against flu. You should get both vaccines as soon as they are available to protect you and your baby. The seasonal flu Vaccine has been shown to protect both the mother and her baby (up to 6 months old) from flu-like illness.

    Pregnant women should know they are part of the first priority group to receive the H1N1 flu vaccine. Seasonal flu vaccine is also recommended for pregnant women and both vaccines can be given at any time during pregnancy. Pregnant women should speak with their healthcare provider as soon as possible if they develop flu-like symptoms. Early treatment with antiviral flu medicines is recommended for pregnant women who have the flu; these medicines are most effective when started within the first 48 hours of feeling sick.

    Pregnant women should follow the same guidance as the general public.  Take these everyday steps to help prevent the spread of germs and protect your health and the health of your family:

  • Stay home when sick.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or sneeze into your sleeve. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water, especially after you cough or sneeze. If soap and water are not available, an alcohol-based hand rub can be used. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If there is H1N1 flu in your community, pay extra attention to your body and how you are feeling. If you think you have the flu, call your doctor or clinic right away.
  • If you are pregnant and you live with or have close contact with someone who has H1N1 flu, talk with your doctor about medicines to prevent flu.
  • Have a plan for someone else to take care of a sick family member.
  • Stock up on household, health, and emergency supplies, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®), water, and non-perishable foods.
  • 03.07 What are some ways that mothers and caretakers can protect infants from H1N1 flu?

    Mothers, household contacts and caregivers for children younger than 6 months of age should get the H1N1 flu vaccine and seasonal influenza vaccine. This is because younger infants are at higher risk of flu-related complications and can't get the vaccines.

    General steps mothers and caretakers can take to protect their infant from the spread of germs that cause respiratory (breathing tract) illnesses like H1N1 flu.

  • Take everyday precautions such as washing your hands with plain soap and water before feeding your baby. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub to clean your hands before feeding your baby.
  • Don't cough or sneeze into your baby's face while feeding him or her, or any other time you and your baby are close. Practice good hygiene habits when coughing or sneezing. 
  • If you are ill have someone else take care of the infant.  See additional recommendations under the section “Should I continue to breastfeed my baby of I am ill?”
  • Consider sleeping in a different room from your infant or at least six feet away during that timeframe if possible.
  • Don’t share toys and other items with other infants and children without thoroughly washing them with soap and water. 
  • Don’t share pacifiers (including the pacifier ring/handle) with other infants without thoroughly washing them with soap and water.
  • Clean surfaces and objects that your infant and children frequently touch with soap and water.
  • When there is flu in your community, you should consider staying away from public gatherings with your infant.
  • 03.08 Should I continue to breastfeed my baby if I have the flu?

    Breast milk is still good for your baby even if you are sick with the flu, but you have to be careful to protect your baby from getting sick. Flu can be very serious in young babies.  If you are breastfeeding or giving your baby infant formula, a cautious approach would be to protect your baby from exposure to the flu virus in the following ways:

  • Cover your cough with a tissue or your sleeve, and wash your hands often and prior to touching your baby.
  • If you have a fever, cough, or are sneezing, it is strongly advised that you to wear a mask while feeding or interacting closely with your infant so that you are not coughing or sneezing into the baby’s face.  You should wear the mask when handling your baby until 24 hours after your temperature goes down.  Change the mask when it becomes damp.
  • Use a cloth blanket between you and your baby during feedings might also help.
  • If you are too sick to breastfeed, pump and have someone else give the expressed milk to your baby.

  • 03.09 Is it okay to take antiviral medicine to treat or prevent H1N1 flu while breastfeeding?

    Yes, but please always check with your health care provider before taking any medications while breastfeeding.

    03.10 Should I wear a mask when caring for ill persons?

    If you are taking care of someone with the flu, you should use something to protect your mouth and nose from the virus. An N95 or N100 respirator is a type of mask that fits closely to your face and can be found at your local drug or hardware store.  Facemasks such as surgical masks can be found at drug or medical supply stores. An alternative is to ask the ill person to wear a mask when in the presence of other people. Information on the use of respirators and facemasks can be found online at http://www.cdc.gov or http://www.cdph.ca.gov. Those without Internet access can also call the CDC hotline at: 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348, 24 hours a day/every day of the week.

    03.11 What should I know about using facemasks or respirators to prevent the spread of H1N1 flu?

    Avoid close contact (being less than about 6 feet away) with the sick person as much as possible.  If you must have close contact with the sick person (for example, holding a sick infant), limit your close contact time and try to wear a facemask (for example, surgical mask) or N95 disposable respirator.

    A facemask will keep large drops from sneezes from landing on your face.  An N95 respirator that fits snugly on your face can filter out small particles that can be inhaled around the edges of a facemask.  Respirators are harder to breathe through than face masks.  You can purchase facemasks and respirators at a pharmacy, building supply, or hardware store.  You should wear an N95 respirator if you help a sick person with respiratory treatments using a nebulizer or inhaler, as directed by their doctor. Respiratory treatments should be performed in a separate room away from common areas of the house when at all possible or outside, weather permitting. 

    Used facemasks should be thrown away when they become damp and hands washed.  N95 respirators may be taken off and stored in a clean dry area so they don’t get crushed.  After you take off a facemask or N95 respirator, clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

    03.12 I use a N95 respirator to protect myself from viruses. Should I throw away the respirator and get a new one every day?

    Whenever possible, rather than relying on the use of facemasks or respirators, avoid close contact with people who might be ill and minimize time spent in crowded settings. 

    You can use a N95 respirator when close contact with an infectious person is unavoidable.  An example of this is when you must care for a sick person (like a family member at home). An N95 or N100 respirator is a type of mask that fits closely to your face and can be found at your local drug or hardware store.  After you take off a facemask or N95 respirator, clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. 

    N95 respirators may be taken off and stored between use in a clean dry area so they don’t get crushed.  The respirator can be reused indefinitely until it can no longer form a tight seal on the wearer’s face or becomes unacceptably dirty to the wearer.  At that point, the respirator should be thrown away in the regular trash.

    03.13 What is being done to protect Californians?

    The California Department of Public Health is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, local health departments, and community organizations to:

  • Monitor the situation in California and worldwide carefully;
  • Provide guidance and assistance to local health departments, health care providers, and the public;
  • Assist local health departments with laboratory testing for the H1N1 virus;
  • Help facilitate the distribution of H1N1 vaccine to California health care providers, public health clinics, pharmacies and other vaccinator services;
  • Monitor H1N1 and seasonal influenza vaccine safety; and
  • Provide important healthcare supplies and antiviral drugs to local health departments for use in your community.
  • To manage this emergency, California has activated its emergency centers and is poised to act quickly if the situation changes.

    03.14 What steps can I take to lessen the spread of novel H1N1 flu to others when caring for someone at home who is sick?

    If you are providing care to a household member who is sick with H1N1 flu, the most important ways to protect yourself and others who are not sick are to:

  • Keep the sick person away from other people as much as possible;
  • Remind the sick person to cover their coughs and clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer often, especially after coughing and/or sneezing;
  • Have everyone in the household clean their hands often, using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
  • Ask your healthcare provider if household contacts of the sick person, particularly those contacts that may have chronic health conditions, should take antiviral medications (drugs that fight viruses) such as Tamiflu or Relenza to prevent the flu.
  • For more detail refer to website: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/guidance_homecare.htm.
  • 03.15 What is the best technique, method for washing my hands to avoid getting the flu?

    Cleaning your hands often will help protect you from germs. Clean hands with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. CDC recommends that when you wash your hands -- with soap and warm water -- that you wash for 15 to 20 seconds. If using hand sanitizer, rub your hands until the sanitizing gel is dry. The sanitizing gel doesn't need water to work; the alcohol in it kills the germs on your hands.

     

    California Department of Public Health, Office of Public Affairs

    Reviewed by CDPH 10/24/09

    Posted by H1N1 Web Team 11/3/09 


     
     
    Last modified on: 8/26/2011 12:49 PM