Questions and Answers

If you have any further inquiries please use the H1N1 Toll Free Info Line (1-877-365-3623) or the H1N1 Email (H1N1-questions-Ont@hc-sc.gc.ca).

H1N1 flu virus is a new human flu virus which causes respiratory illness in people, affecting the nose, throat and lungs. It is called pandemic flu because it is a new strain of flu virus that humans have no natural immunity to and because it has spread quickly to many people all over the world, since it was first identified in April 2009.

  • Almost always: Cough and fever
  • Common: Fatigue, Muscle aches, sore throat, headache, decreased appetite, runny nose
  • Sometimes: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea

Once you are infected, symptoms usually develop within 2 to 7 days. Most cases are mild and people recover well on their own at home, with full recovery within 1 to 2 weeks.

  • Through coughing or sneezing. This releases germs into the air that can be breathed in by others.
  • When you touch hard surfaces such as counters, doorknobs that are contaminated by the influenza virus, and then touch our mouth or nose.
  • You can NOT get H1N1 flu from eating or preparing pork products.

A person can infect others with the H1N1 flu virus from one day before symptoms start, to 7 days after symptoms start.

An influenza self-assessment tool has been developed by the Ontario Ministry of Health & Long Term Care to assist patients in determining when they should seek medical care.

It can be found at:
http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/ccom/flu/h1n1/public/tools/assessment/default.aspx

  • If you are otherwise healthy, stay home if you have flu-like symptoms. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
  • If you are pregnant or have underlying medical conditions and develop flu-like symptoms, call or visit your health care provider as soon as possible, and seek medical care if your symptoms worsen.
  • If you have any of the symptoms below, see a health care provider right away:
    • difficulty breathing or feeling short of breath
    • chest pain
    • vomiting that is severe or doesn't stop
    • high fever for more than 2 days in adults
    • severe tiredness in children
    • confusion or difficulty waking any ill person

In an attempt to provide an opportunity to help people have their questions answered, First Nations and Inuit Health - Ontario Region has established a toll free phone line and an e-mail address where people can ask general questions regarding H1N1, such as signs and symptoms, how to avoid spreading or getting H1N1, etc.

H1N1 Toll Free Info Line: 1-877-365-3623

The phone number will be answered from 9am to 6pm EST seven days a week.

H1N1 Inquiries Email: H1N1-questions-Ont@hc-sc.gc.ca

Emails will receive a response within one business day.

  • Young adults, children and babies are most likely to get the H1N1 flu. Most cases are mild, but a small number of people, including healthy young adults, have needed intensive care in hospital for H1N1 flu or have even died. This makes H1N1 flu different from seasonal flu, which mostly affects older people.
  • Pregnant women and people with underlying disease are at higher risk of severe illness, if they are infected with H1N1.
  • Many First Nations people belong to higher risk groups for H1N1 infection and severe illness. This is because First Nations communities tend to have many young adults and children, pregnant women, and people with underlying diseases. Living in remote or isolated communities, and living in impoverished or overcrowded conditions, also places many First Nations people at higher risk.
  • If possible, avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cough and sneeze in your arm or sleeve.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, or hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Get your H1N1 flu shot when it becomes available.

Only those in higher risk groups, or those with severe illness that are admitted to hospital, should be routinely tested for the H1N1 flu virus.

This flu season, there will be two flu vaccines offered in Ontario:

  • People aged 65 and over, and those living in long term care facilities, will be offered the seasonal flu vaccine in October. Everyone else aged 6 months and over will be offered the seasonal flu vaccine in December or January, to give them a chance to get the H1N1 vaccine first.
  • People aged 6 months and over will be offered the H1N1 flu vaccine starting in November.

The seasonal flu vaccine will NOT protect against the H1N1 flu virus.

Vaccines prevent influenza. They give you immunity to specific diseases by telling your body to make antibodies.

Antivirals are drugs used for early treatment of influenza, and in special cases for prevention. They do not make you immune to the virus, but they can reduce the severity and length of illness. Most people are recovering well from H1N1 flu on their own at home, so this flu season antivirals will be used for early treatment only for those who need it.

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a respiratory infection that is caused by a virus. The H1N1 flu virus is new, so people have little or no natural immunity to it. The H1N1 flu virus spread quickly around the world and in June 2009, the World Health Organization declared an influenza pandemic.

The flu is transmitted from person to person via the respiratory route. Coughs and sneezes release the germs into the air where they can be breathed in by others. Germs can also rest on hard surfaces like counters and doorknobs, where they can be picked up on hands and transmitted to the respiratory system when someone touches their mouth and/or nose.

Symptoms almost always include the sudden onset of cough and fever, commonly include fatigue, muscle aches, sore throat, headache, runny nose and decreased appetite, and sometimes include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. People of any age can get the flu. Most people are sick for two to seven days, although the cough may last for weeks. The flu can sometimes lead to serious complications, including pneumonia, hospitalization, and even death.

Groups at risk of complications from the H1N1 flu virus include children under five years of age, especially those less than two years old; women who are pregnant; and people with chronic conditions such as heart/liver/kidney disease, blood disorders, diabetes, severe obesity, asthma, chronic lung disease, people with compromised immune systems, and those with neurological disorders.

Adults and children six months of age and older should get vaccinated to protect themselves and their families from the H1N1 flu virus as soon as it is available. The H1N1 flu vaccine is particularly important for people at risk of complications from the flu and those in close contact with them.

Note: if you are pregnant or think you could be pregnant, tell your health care provider as this may affect the vaccine recommended for you.

Most people will develop immunity in about 10 days after the H1N1 flu shot. Clinical trials have shown 85% to 98% of healthy adults developed an immune response strong enough to offer protection against the virus.

The vaccine may not work as well in people who have problems with their immune systems or who are taking medication that affects their immune systems, however it is still very important for these people to be vaccinated.

Clinical trials from several countries around the world have shown the H1N1 flu vaccine to safe and effective for protecting yourself against the H1N1 flu virus. The H1N1 flu vaccine is produced in a similar manner to seasonal flu vaccines, which have been used safely and effectively in Canada for many years.

The H1N1 flu vaccine contains an adjuvant, which is an ingredient made of naturally occurring oil, water and vitamin E that boosts the body's immune response and increases the vaccine effectiveness. This same adjuvant was tested in 45, 000 people and did not identify any safety concerns for healthy adults or children. However, the adjuvant was not tested widely in children under three years and pregnant women.

The H1N1 flu vaccine contains trace amounts of dead virus, so you cannot get infected by the vaccine. The side effects are generally similar to those associated with the seasonal flu vaccine.

Most common reactions after getting the H1N1 flu vaccine were minor and included pain, swelling and redness at the injection site. Other commonly reported reactions were fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and headache. In younger children, a fever, drowsiness, irritability and loss of appetite were also reported in low levels. Serious and life-threatening reactions are very rare.

A more serious illness called Guillain-Barré syndrome (a severe paralytic illness also called GBS) has occurred very rarely after the administration of seasonal flu vaccine. All age groups can be affected but GBS is most common in the elderly population. A variety of infectious agents are also known to be associated with GBS including influenza virus and food-borne pathogens. The risk of suffering GBS as a complication from influenza virus is greater than the risk of getting it as a reaction to the flu shot.

The H1N1 vaccine is not authorized for use in children younger than six months of age.

You shouldn't get the H1N1 vaccine if:

  1. you have had a previous anaphylactic (severe allergic reaction) to any element of the vaccine;
  2. you have a hypersensitivity to eggs (e.g. hives, swelling of mouth and/or throat, breathing difficulty);
  3. you currently have a high fever; or
  4. you have experienced Guillan-Barré Syndrome within eight weeks of receiving a seasonal flu vaccine

If you have had a severe reaction to previous vaccinations, have a bleeding disorder, are taking medication that could affect blood clotting, you should consult a health professional before receiving the vaccine.

An adjuvant is a substance that is added to a vaccine in order to boost the individual's response. Its also means that less of the virus or "antigen" is needed to make a dose of the vaccine. Unadjuvanted vaccine has no "immune boosting" element, and more antigen is needed to create this kind of vaccine.

Adjuvants are made entirely from naturally-occurring ingredients such as oil, water and Vitamin E. Adjuvants can be found in many common vaccines. The adjuvant in the H1n1 vaccine has been tested with over 45,000 people around the world.