Tuesday, September 15, 2009

H1N1 contagious "for about a week"

A new study on H1N1, so-called swine flu, indicates that people may be contagious for longer than previously believed. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been telling people they might spread the virus one or two days after their fever breaks, but new research indicates that communicability lasts a week:
When the coughing stops is probably a better sign of when a swine flu patient is no longer contagious, experts said after seeing new research that suggests the virus can still spread many days after a fever goes away.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been telling people to stay home from work and school and avoid contact with others until a day after their fever breaks. The new research suggests they may need to be careful for longer — especially at home where the risk of spreading the germ is highest.

Swine flu also appears to be contagious longer than ordinary seasonal flu, several experts said.

"This study shows you're not contagious for [just] a day or two. You're probably contagious for about a week," said Gaston De Serres, a scientist at the Institute of Public Health in Quebec.
If this is true, it is one more way in which H1N1 is proving to be more virulent than "normal flu," and it underscores the need for more diligence in preventing spread of the virus, especially in places like the US, where infection is rampant. Nobody likes being isolated, whether through forced quarantine or being voluntarily holed up in one's home, so having to stay away from work or school for several days longer might not be too popular an idea.

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