Frequently Asked Questions
Download your own copy of our swine flu Frequently Asked Questions here.
What is Influenza A (H1N1) - swine flu?
It is a new virus first seen in people in Mexico April 2009, and it may have been circulating in Mexico for some weeks before that. By early June 2009, over 70 countries had reported people who had at some time been sick with the new virus. It spread’s from person-to-person, the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread.
It is a different strain of influenza from the seasonal flu viruses which circulate around New Zealand in winter.
We are currently seeing another increase in H1N1 cases in New Zealand. The areas that were least affected during the 2009 pandemic will likely be hardest hit this season.
Why is this flu called “swine flu”
Many forms of flu affect animals and humans, and can change to create new viruses. This new influenza A (H1N1) virus is called swine flu because it normally affects pigs, even though it is now being passed on between people.
How is the swine flu spread?
When infected people cough or sneeze, infected droplets get on their hands, drop onto surfaces, or spread into the air. Another person nearby can breathe in the droplets, or touch infected hands or surfaces, and be exposed.
Can I get the swine flu from eating or preparing pork?
No. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products will not spread the disease.
When should I go back to work?
7 days from the start of your symptoms, or 24 hours after the symptoms have gone, whichever is longest.
What is the incubation period for the swine flu?
Usually within 72 hours, but up to 4 days
How long is someone with the swine flu infectious?
1 day before until 7 days after onset of symptoms
How long can the virus stay on surfaces?
The virus can survive until the secretions dry up. For example, a used tissue may stay “wet” for many hours, whereas a sneeze onto a plate may dry up sooner
How many confirmed cases are there in New Zealand?
As of 12th of August 2010, The cumulative total of confirmed cases of people hospitalised in New Zealand is now 332. This number is expected increase daily.
How do I stop myself getting sick?
• Wash your hands often with soap and water and dry them thoroughly. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth as germs spread this way.
• Try to avoid close contact with people you know to be sick.
• Reduce time spent in crowded settings.
Should I be canceling social events/club meetings?
The Ministry of Health is not advising people to cancel social gatherings, sports events and travel. However, there are practical steps that individuals and communities can take to reduce the community spread of the virus. These steps include practising good hand hygiene and covering coughs and sneezes. If you are sick, stay home until you have fully recovered as you can easily spread the infection to others.
How do I get the free Public Health Supply?
Public Health controls the free supply of Tamiflu. Community based assessment centres and have been given strict guidelines to provide a supply to people with severe disease or at high risk complications.What are the symptoms of the swine flu?
• Runny/stuffy nose
• Body aches
• Diarrhoea and vomiting – sometimes
Will I be able to tell the difference between swine flu and normal flu?
No. You will need to be tested by a health professional.
What can I expect if I have swine flu?
• Day 1–3:
Sudden fever (temperature over 38° C), headache, muscle pain and weakness, dry cough, sore throat and sometimes stuffed nose.
• Day 4:
Fever and muscle aches decrease. Hoarse, dry or sore throat, cough and possible mild chest discomfort become more noticeable. You may feel tired, depressed or flat.
• Day 8:
Symptoms decrease. Cough, tiredness and mild depression may last 1–2 weeks or more.
When should I see a doctor?
Watch for signs that the sick person may need further medical attention including:
• Difficulty breathing
• Chest pain
• Blueness around the lips
• Inability to keep fluids down
• Becoming less alert or developing confusion.
It is important to seek medical attention as soon as these symptoms occur. Ring your GP or hospital or 8000 healthline for help.
What do I do if I feel unwell?
Stay at home and manage your symptoms. Call your gp or healthline 0800 611 116 for help or advice if you need it.
How long is a person infectious for?
For as long as they are showing symptoms, and for up to 24 hours after the last sign of symptoms. This could be longer in young children. Early use of antivirals such as Tamiflu reduces this relatively quickly.
Should I be wearing a mask?
If you are not sick you do not have to wear a mask all the time.
You should be wearing a mask any time you come into contact with anyone who has flu symptoms. You may not always know when this will be - so be prepared and have access to masks at all times.
If I have had the flu vaccine, am I protected from Swine Flu?
The 2010 seasonal influenza vaccine does include protection against the swine flu (A/H1N1 pandemic influenza), in addition to other common flu strains.
What do I do if I get sick?
If you have flu symptoms you should:
• Rest and take plenty of fluids;
• take paracetamol regularly to reduce fever and body aches
• Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing and, if using tissues, make sure you dispose of them carefully. Clean your hands immediately after with soap and water or cleanse them with an alcohol-based hand rub;
• If you do not have a tissue close by when you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth as much as possible with the crook of your elbow;
• If you have some, you could use a mask to help you contain the spread of droplets when you are around others, but be sure to use the mask correctly;
• Inform family and friends about your illness and try to avoid close contact with other people.
• Seek medical advice if your symptoms get worse.
What are the warning signs I should be looking for?
In children, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
• Fast breathing or trouble breathing
• Bluish or gray skin color
• Not drinking enough fluids
• Severe or persistent vomiting
• Not waking up or not interacting
• Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
• Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
• Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
• Sudden dizziness
• Severe or persistent vomiting
• Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
I have heard the second round of the swine flu will be worse? Am I better off getting the flu now?
It is not recommended to purposely contract the swine flu in the hope of having natural immunity to the virus that might circulate later and cause more severe disease.
While the disease has been mild for many people, it has been severe and even fatal for others. There is no way to predict how any one person will feel, or how different the next strain of this virus will be.
What should I do to prepare my household for a flu pandemic?
You will need to have one weeks supply of any essentials incase you can’t leave the house. These may include:
• Regular medication
• Disposable gloves
• Hand sanitizers
• Liquid hand soap.
Please view the Flu Pandemic Guide to help you be prepared.
I’ve been in close contact with someone who has Human Swine Flu – do I need to go into home quarantine?
No. There is no longer a need to quarantine everyone who has been in close contact with a person who has Human Swine Flu, even if you live in the same house. The current quarantine rules are:
• If your doctor has confirmed that you have Human Swine Flu and has given you antiviral medication (Tamiflu), you should stay at home for three days from the day you start taking it
• If you are feeling unwell with flu-like symptoms but have not been given antiviral medication, you are asked to stay at home for at least seven days
• Household members living with a person with Human Swine Flu will continue to be provided with antivirals (Tamiflu) as a precaution, but they will no longer be quarantined.
What does home quarantine involve?
People who are ill with Human Swine Flu have been asked to remain in home quarantine for at least three days. The day the infected person starts taking antiviral treatment is day one.
This means that they must remain at home, and not attend work or school. No visitors should attend the house where people are in quarantine.
Is there a risk from drinking water?
Current drinking water treatment regulations provide a high degree of protection from viruses. To date there are no cases of influenza being passed through drinking water.
Can the swine flu be spread through water in swimming pools?
Our public swimming pools etc are chemically treated to prevent flu virus transmission, and to date no cases have ever been reported. Recreational water that has been treated at CDC recommended such as novel H1N1 virus would also be similarly disinfected by chlorine.
Where can I find information about Tamiflu?
Where can I find information about protecting my family?
Please visit our section Information for Families.
Where can I find information for businesses?
Please visit our section Information for Businesses
Where can I find information for travelers?
Please visit our section Information for Travelers
How long can influenza virus remain viable on objects (such as books and doorknobs)?
Studies have shown that influenza virus can survive on environmental surfaces and can infect a person for up to 2-8 hours after being deposited on the surface.
What surfaces are most likely to be sources of contamination?
Germs can be spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth. Droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air and land on any surface. It will then be spread when someone touches a surface like a desk, for example, and then touches their own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands.
What cleaning should be done to prevent the spread of influenza virus?
It is important to keep surfaces (especially bedside tables, surfaces in the bathroom, kitchen counters and toys for children) clean by wiping them down with a normal household disinfectant according to directions on the product label.
How should linens, eating utensils and dishes of persons infected with influenza virus be handled?
Linens, eating utensils, and dishes belonging to those who are sick do not need to be cleaned separately, but importantly these items should not be shared without washing thoroughly first. Linens (such as bed sheets and towels) should be washed by using household laundry soap and tumbled dry on a hot setting. Individuals should avoid “hugging” laundry prior to washing it to prevent contaminating themselves. Individuals should wash their hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub immediately after handling dirty laundry.
Eating utensils should be washed either in a dishwasher or by hand with water and soap.
What is the Government doing in response to the outbreak?
Government stocks of antiviral drugs and personal protective equipment are available to help us deal with the new flu virus. Government holds a stockpile of the antiviral medicine Tamiflu sufficient to treat around a third of the population, and this has recently been supplemented with 135,000 treatment courses of another antiviral medicine, Relenza.
Healthline, 0800-611-116, which normally takes calls from individuals wanting health advice, has been bolstered to allow them to take calls from the public who are concerned and are seeking advice about influenza.
What other actions are being taken in response to the recent outbreak?
Health authorities are:
• in regular contact with the World Health Organization to ensure we are well informed about international developments and acting in concert with global initiatives to limit the spread of the disease
• monitoring the spread of the disease and getting good information about individual cases in New Zealand
• planning for the possible need to increase or change the focus of our response
What products should I be recommending?
Purell 59ml Sanitizer
Purell 236ml Sanitizer
Germ X original hand sanitizer 44ml
Germ X Soft Wipes quilted Cloths
Zoonocide Aerosol (400g)
Mask - check that it’s a N95 or P2 –
Latex Exam Gloves
Kleenex Anti Viral
Clinicians Del Immune V 30s
Thompsons Esterfied C 1000mg
Blackmores Bio C 1000mg
Nutralife Ester C
Nutralife Kyolic Garlic
Thompons Immunofort Jnr
Multi Go Healthy
Nutralife ultra Daily
Go Healthy Viral Defence
Please visit our SHOP to find products that will help you and your family be prepared.