Environmental Health and Safety

H1N1 Influenza

How does H1N1 flu spread?

photo of man sneezing

Human-to-human transmission of H1N1 flu is thought to occur in the same way as seasonal flu occurs in people, which is mainly person-to-person transmission through coughing or sneezing of people infected with the influenza virus. People may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

How long can an infected person spread H1N1 flu to others?

People with H1N1 influenza virus infection are potentially contagious 1 day before showing symptoms, and 24 hours after their fever breaks.

What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?

Take these everyday steps to protect your health:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective. Go to University Health Services for proper hand washing instructions.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Flu is spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you get sick with influenza, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

Can I get H1N1 influenza from eating or preparing pork?

No. H1N1 influenza viruses are not spread by food. You cannot get H1N1 influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.

Is cold water adequate for hand washing?

Cold water is considered effective if the soap is soluble in cold water. Tepid or warm water is recommended by the CDC however, cold water is also acceptable if the soap used mixes well with cold water. Warm water does have the advantage of removing oils from the hand and making soap more soluble while excessively hot water is harder on the skin, dries the skin, and is too uncomfortable to wash for the recommended amount of time.

References: Clean Hands (CDC) and Handwashing (Texas DSHS)

Are some hand sanitizers better than others?

photo of hand sanitizer

Yes. Hand sanitizers should contain at least 60% alcohol. Some brands contain less.

Are there any hazards associated with hand sanitizer?

Yes. Hand sanitizer contains alcohols, which can be flammable until the alcohol evaporates. Hand sanitizer can also contain isopropyl alcohol, which can be poisonous. Parents should monitor their children when giving them hand sanitizer.

Does the university provide hand sanitizer?

The university is installing several hundred hand sanitizer dispensers in public areas on campus. Departments that would like hand sanitizer in their offices will need to purchase it directly.

Do I need a respirator or mask?

photo of surgical mask

At this time, the CDC does not generally recommend using respirators or masks for H1N1. Certain groups such as the following may be advised to use a respirator/mask:

  • Healthcare providers seeing patients with H1N1
  • People at risk for severe illness from flu
  • People who have unavoidable close contact with people with flu

The optimal use of a respirator requires fit-testing and medical clearance for use. Masks should be considered as an alternative. More information can be found at the CDC website.

How can I get a mask?

The University is providing masks on a limited basis based on the current CDC Interim Recommendations for Facemask and Respirator Use to Reduce Novel Influenza A (H1N1) Virus Transmission. If you are a University employee and meet the CDC requirements, speak to your supervisor and a mask can be provided. If you are a student, you can obtain masks at your nearest pharmacy.

Do I need to disinfect my workspace?

Disinfecting commonly touched surfaces can be an effective method in reducing the spread of influenza by touch.

How do I disinfect my workspace?

Disinfect commonly touched surfaces such as:

  • Doorknobs, push bars/plates
  • Break room equipment
  • Common electronic equipment such as copiers
  • Counters/tables
  1. Use a virucidal disinfectant that kills flu
  2. Ensure that the disinfectant does not damage furniture or equipment
  3. Use wipes for electronic equipment

How do I reduce spreading flu at work?

  1. Stay home if you have the flu
  2. If you feel like you are developing flu-like symptoms, go home
  3. Use cough/sneeze etiquette
  4. Use social distancing. Stay 6 feet away from anyone who is sick.
  5. Wash/sanitize hands frequently

The information in this FAQ was taken from the following sources:
Swine Influenza and You (CDC)
Swine Influenza Frequently Asked Questions (WHO)

Government Resources

The State of Texas flu hotline is available between 7:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. at 1-888-777-5320 or see texasflu.org.

You can also keep up with updates on the CDC H1N1 flu investigation by signing up for e-mail updates or following the CDC on Twitter.

University Resources