Important Information about H1N1 Flu Virus and People with Chronic Kidney Disease

H1N1 flu virus causes respiratory illness with symptoms similar to those of the regular human seasonal flu. It is believed that it is spread from person to person in the same way as the seasonal flu – predominantly through coughing or sneezing.

Symptoms include headache, chills, cough followed by fever, loss of appetite, muscle aches and fatigue, runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes and throat irritation. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea may also occur. In more severe cases, or in people with chronic conditions, complications such as pneumonia may develop.

Children and adults with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and kidney transplant recipients are high risk groups for infection from the flu virus, including H1N1, and should consider vaccination. The H1N1 flu vaccine is intended to produce immunity to the H1N1 virus by stimulating the production of antibodies.

At this time, Health Canada is advising Canadians not to purchase products claiming to fight or prevent H1N1. While there are approved antiviral drugs that may help prevent or reduce the symptoms associated with the flu in general, there are currently no products authorized for sale in Canada that are indicated specifically for the treatment of H1N1 flu virus.

How to protect yourself from infection

To avoid infection with swine influenza, take the same precautions you would normally take to avoid infection from the regular flu:

  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and warm water, or use a hand sanitizer.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes in a tissue or in your arm or sleeve, not in your hands, to prevent spreading germs to others.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. You can get infected by touching something that is contaminated with germs and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. 
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. 
  • Follow good health habits: get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

The Public Health Agency of Canada does not recommend wearing surgical masks for protecting against swine flu. People often use masks incorrectly, or contaminate them when putting them on and taking them off, which could actually increase the risk of infection. Only people who are ill with swine flu or exhibiting flu-like symptoms should wear face masks to protect those in close contact, like doctors, nurses, and caregivers at home.

What to do if you experience flu-like symptoms

  • Contact your renal unit immediately to receive further advice.
  • Stay home and avoid others (with the exception of medical appointments)

Good information is the first step towards prevention. The Public Health Agency of Canada website offers detailed information on the H1N1 flu virus and provides regular updates. We recommend consulting their Fact Sheet on Human Swine Influenza to learn more about swine influenza and steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Before making any decisions that could affect your health, talk to your doctor.

Useful links  

  • Public Health Agency of Canada for information and announcements on the swine flu virus:
    http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/alert-alerte/swine_200904-eng.php
  • Fact Sheet on Human Swine Influenza to learn more about swine flu:
    http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/alert-alerte/swine-porcine/fs-fr_swine-eng.php 
  • FIGHTFLU.ca for information on influenza prevention:
    http://www.fightflu.ca/ 
  • Voyage.gc.ca for travel notices and advisories if you plan to travel:
    http://www.voyage.gc.ca/
 Canadian government swine flu hotline:  1-800-454-8302


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