FAQ on Influenza A(H1N1)

Although the signs and symptoms of Influenza A(H1N1) have been widely publicised, many are still unclear about the way it could affect them personally. Here are a few frequently asked questions :

I. How do we get infected with Influenza A(H1N1)?

The A(H1N1) virus is mainly transmitted person to person by droplets that comes out the noses or mouths of infected people when they cough or sneeze. We can get infected if we inhale the droplets or touch something – such as a surface or object – with flu viruses on it and then touch our mouth, nose or eyes.



A person can remain infectious as long as symptoms of influenza-like illness persist, or one day before and up to 7 days after symptoms (especially fever) appear. Children and those whose immune systems are compromised can spread the virus longer.

That is why you should ...


a. practise good cough etiquette and personal hygiene


b. clean commonly touched surfaces in the house/workplace


c. practise social distancing (stay 1m away from a person who is sneezing/coughing)

II. How does the Influenza A(H1N1) virus make us sick?

The Influenza A(H1N1) virus is a virus that mainly affects our respiratory system. It penetrates cells lining our airways and replicates inside them. When they are released from infected cells, the infected cell is damaged.

As our immune system fights the infection with an inflammatory response, it may cause swelling in our airways and we may have fever, cough, sore throat, and difficulty in breathing.



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III. How is Influenza A(H1N1) different from the common cold?

High fever (>38°C) that lasts for 3 to 4 days, sore throat, headaches, severe body aches, extreme fatigue and severe cough are common in Influenza A(H1N1) but rare in common colds. Running or stuffy nose and sneezing, however, is sometimes present in Influenza A(H1N1) but prominent in common colds.

While Influenza A(H1N1) can lead to other complications, colds generally do not result in serious health problems such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalisations.

IV. How does the Influenza A(H1N1) virus cause complications and death, and how can we prevent them?

Pneumonia (an inflammatory illness of the lungs) is the major serious complication of influenza virus infections, including the Influenza A(H1N1) virus. The inflammation in the lungs may cause difficulty in breathing or cause the lungs to be filled with fluid, making it difficult for the body to get enough oxygen.

It can develop about 3 to 5 days after symptoms start. But it is uncommon, and usually occurs in susceptible individuals from the high-risk groups.

Pneumonia can be caused by the spread of the influenza virus into the lungs, or by unrelated bacteria, which infects the lungs after a person's immune system is weakened by the virus infection.

Other complications include cardiovascular, muscular, neurological and systemic ones. Cardiac events following influenza are not uncommon.

So far, about 70% of those who died due to Influenza A(H1N1) related complications had underlying medical conditions or were from other high-risk groups. However, 40% of deaths in the country are linked to delays in seeking treatment, while 13% of them have sought medical help but were treated with a low index of suspicion.

If you have influenza-like illnesses, follow medical advice, and be watchful for emergency warning signs. SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION if you have any of the warning signs.

V. How does anti-viral medication work, and does it have any side effects?

Oseltamivir and zanamivir are drugs called neuraminidase inhibitors. They help prevent influenza viruses from multiplying in the body by interfering with the production and release of virus from cells that line the airways. This may slow the spread of the infection within the airways and lungs.

Oseltamivir is taken orally while zanamivir is taken by inhalation.

Although generally well tolerated, the most common side-effects associated with oseltamivir are nausea and vomiting. People with the flu, particularly children and adolescents, may be at an increased risk of self-injury and confusion shortly after taking oseltamivir and should be closely monitored for signs of unusual behaviour. A healthcare professional should be contacted immediately if the patient taking oseltamivir shows any signs of unusual behaviour.

As many patients with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have had bronchospasm (wheezing) or serious breathing problems when they used zanamivir, it is not recommended for people with chronic respiratory disease such as asthma or COPD. If you develop worsening respiratory symptoms such as wheezing or shortness of breath, stop using zanamivir and contact your healthcare provider right away.


More info on INFLUENZA A here.






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