Is Swine Flu (H1N1) Contagious?

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Swine Flu (H1N1) Treatment

Two antiviral agents have been reported to help prevent or reduce the effects of swine flu. They are zanamivir (Relenza) and oseltamivir (Tamiflu), both of which are also used to prevent or reduce influenza A and B symptoms.

What is swine flu?

Swine flu is a term that is being replaced by the designation H1N1 influenza and refers to a particular type of influenza virus that has a genetic makeup that includes viral genes that are associated with the infection of pigs. Swine flu was the cause of an influenza outbreak that was considered to be a pandemic in 2009. The term swine flu came about because the type of influenza virus responsible for the 2009 pandemic, H1N1, contained genetic elements of influenza virus that were mainly thought to be characteristic for influenza strains that caused flu-like symptoms in pigs but had genetically changed to be able to cause flu in humans.

Additionally, another type of swine flu virus, H3N2v, has been discovered. It is not as contagious as H1N1, but there are reports of this virus spreading from pigs to humans. In general, this swine flu is similar in most aspects to the disease caused by H1N1, but it is apparently less severe and is not easily spread from person to person. This article will focus on the swine flu virus H1N1.

Is swine flu (H1N1) contagious?

Swine flu is contagious from person to person. It can be spread through the air by droplets produced by sneezing, coughing, or by direct contact with saliva or mucus secretions. In addition, the virus can survive for a short time outside the infected individual, so people can indirectly contact H1N1 by touching areas (desks, utensils, cups, tabletops, for example) where droplets have recently landed after an infected person with the virus has inadvertently contaminated a surface.

What is the contagious period for swine flu (H1N1)?

The contagious period for H1N1 is about one day before symptoms develop to about a week after symptoms develop in individuals who spontaneously overcome the infection. In severely infected people and in some children, some contagious viruses may be shed for a few weeks.

How will I know if I have swine flu?

Symptoms of swine flu (H1N1) begin like regular flu symptoms and include fever, sore throat, cough, body aches, headaches, chills, and fatigue. Some individuals may also have diarrhea and vomiting. The majority of people with swine flu are not diagnosed definitively with tests. Unfortunately, these symptoms can be similar to those produced by other diseases so usually a person finds out that they have swine flu (H1N1) after contacting their physician, who can run several different blood tests and other viral identification tests to determine what type of flu or other illness may be present. The tests are usually run on those with more severe symptoms.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/8/2016

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