Swine Flu (H1N1)

Disponible En Espanol


  • Swine flu is a viral respiratory infection. It affects the nose, throat, trachea, and bronchi.
  • You can get swine flu from family members, friends, or people in your community. Use this Care Guide only if you have symptoms that match swine flu (H1N1 virus).

Symptoms of Swine Flu

  • Suddenly have fever, chills, muscle aches, headaches, and feel sick.
  • Respiratory symptoms are like a common cold. These include runny nose, sore throat, and a bad cough.
  • Fever is usually present. The fever is usually higher (102-104°F; 38.9-40°C) with swine flu than with a cold.  Headaches and muscle aches are also worse with swine flu than a cold.

Some Basics...

  • The swine flu (H1N1) is a type of flu virus. It is very similar to the normal flu. Cases of swine flu spread from pigs to humans in Mexico during March 2009. In April 2009, there was an outbreak among humans in the United States and Canada. It started spreading from person-to-person. Since the 2009 outbreak, the number of swine flu cases has decreased.
  • Incubation Period: After exposure, a person will have swine flu symptoms within 1-4 days. The longest time it will take to show signs is about 7 days.
  • Symptoms: They are like those of the normal flu. They include runny nose, sore throat, cough, and fever. Other symptoms are muscle pain, headache and fatigue. Some people also vomit and have diarrhea.
  • Prognosis: Like the normal flu, symptoms can be mild to severe. In the United States and Canada, the symptoms have often been mild. It is thought that complications and death are rare.
  • Complications: These can be pneumonia and respiratory problems or failure. Complications are more likely to happen to certain high risk patients (see list below).
  • What to Expect: Swine flu will often be like the normal flu. A fever may last for 2-3 days and a runny/stuffy nose for 7-14 days.  The cough may last for 2-3 weeks.
  • Can It Be Spread: Swine flu is spread just like other flu viruses. It is spread through droplets in the air from sneezing and coughing. It also can be spread by hands with secretions on them. Swine flu is NOT spread by eating pork.
  • Contagious Period: A person can spread the virus from 1 day before to 7 days after symptoms start.
  • Treatment - Antiviral Medications: See below.
  • Prevention - Vaccine: The best prevention is a yearly seasonal flu vaccine. This year, H1N1 is also in the normal flu vaccine. There is no need to get a second flu shot.

Some individuals are at higher risk for complications. Adults at HIGH RISK include:

  • People over 65 years old
  • People younger than 19 years old who are on long-term aspirin therapy (Reason: at risk for Reye's syndrome)
  • Pregnant women
  • Asthma
  • Neurological and neuro-developmental conditions (disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscles such as cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, stroke, mental retardation, developmental delay, muscular dystrophy, or spinal cord injury)
  • Chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] and cystic fibrosis)
  • Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure, and coronary artery disease)
  • Blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease)
  • Endocrine disorders (such as diabetes)
  • Kidney disorders
  • Liver disorders
  • Inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders
  • Weak immune system due to disease or medication (such as people with HIV/AIDS, cancer, or who are long-term steroid users)

Antiviral Medications for Swine Flu

  • There are two anti-viral drugs that are helpful in treating swine flu. They are oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza).
  • Treatment: Treatment is recommended for people with severe symptoms who need to be hospitalized.  It is also given to high risk people with any flu symptoms. Treatment is most often not recommended for flu-like illness in most healthy people.
  • Post-Exposure (Prevention): These drugs can also be taken prophylactically to prevent illness. Pregnant women and health care workers should use these drugs. So should people at higher risk of complications from the flu.
  • Reference: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/recommendations.htm

Staying Home from Work and School

  • The CDC recommends that people with flu-like illness stay at home. They can return to normal activities after their fever is gone for 24 hours. This is when it is below 100°F (37.8°C).
  • You can find more information at: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/guidance/exclusion.htm


The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.

  • Not a Substitute - The information and materials in Adult HouseCalls Symptom Checker should not be used as a substitute for the care and knowledge that your physician can provide to you.
  • Supplement - The information and materials presented here in Adult HouseCalls Symptom Checker are meant to supplement the information that you obtain from your physician. If there is a disagreement between the information presented herein and what your physician has told you -- it is more likely that your physician is correct. He or she has the benefit of knowing your medical problems.
  • Limitations - You should recognize that the information and materials presented here in Adult HouseCalls Symptom Checker have the following limitations, in comparison to being examined by your own physician:
    • You can have a conversation with your doctor.
    • Your doctor can perform a physical examination and any necessary tests.
    • You could have an underlying medical problem that requires a physician to detect.
    • If you are taking medications, they could influence how you experience various symptoms.

If you think that you are having a medical emergency, call 911 or the number for the local emergency ambulance service NOW!

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