What to Do if You Think You Have H1N1 Swine Flu Virus

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

If you've got fever, cough, or one of the other symptoms of the flu, you may be wondering if you have contracted the H1N1 swine flu virus. The reality is that it isn't possible to know unless specialized testing is ordered, and for uncomplicated cases of the flu in non-hospitalized patients, routine testing for the H1N1 virus is not being carried out.

Experts recommend that people who suspect that they have H1N1 infection stay home and avoid contact with other people. The only time you should leave home is to access medical care if needed. That said, it is important to remember that the vast majority of flu cases (even H1N1 cases) produce only a mild illness for which doctor's visits and/or antiviral drugs are not necessary. So, the presence of cough and fever in an individual who is not at high risk for complications (see below) and who does not have warning signs of a medical emergency should not be a reason to visit an ER. The emergency department should be used for the treatment of people who are very sick or who have life-threatening emergencies (listed below). If you're in doubt, a call to your health-care practitioner can help you decide whether or not you need to access medical care.