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What Adults with HIV Infection Should Know About the Novel H1N1 Flu (formerly called swine flu)

This document has been updated in accordance with the CDC Recommendations for the Amount of Time Persons with Influenza-Like Illness Should be Away from Others. This document provides interim guidance and will be updated as needed.

Are people with HIV/AIDS at greater risk than other people of infection with novel H1N1 flu?

At the present time, we have no information about the risk of the novel H1N1 flu in people with HIV/AIDS. In the past, people with HIV/AIDS have not appeared to be at any greater risk than the general population for infection with routine seasonal influenza. However, HIV-infected adults and adolescents, and especially persons with low CD4 cell counts or AIDS, can experience more severe complications of seasonal influenza. It is therefore possible that HIV-infected adults and adolescents are also at higher risk for complications from infection with the H1N1 flu virus.

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What can people with HIV/AIDS do to protect themselves from novel H1N1 flu?

HIV-infected patients should take precautions to protect themselves from novel H1N1 flu.

  1. Wash your hands often (or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer* if soap and water aren’t available)
  2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands – germs spread this way
  3. Try to avoid close contact with sick people
  4. Review CDC’s interim recommendations for facemask and respirator use

HIV-infected persons should maintain a healthy lifestyle; eat right, get enough sleep, and reduce stress as much as possible.  Staying healthy reduces your risk of getting infected by influenza and other infections.  Staying health also helps your immune system fight off a flu infection should it occur.

If you are currently taking antiretrovirals or antimicrobial prophylaxis against opportunistic infections you should adhere to your prescribed treatment and follow the advice of your health care provider in order to maximize the health of your immune system.

What are the signs and symptoms of H1N1 influenza?

Signs and symptoms of infection with the novel H1N1 influenza are generally the same as for seasonal influenza: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, body aches (muscle aches or joint pain), chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with novel H1N1 flu.

What should people with HIV/AIDS do if they think they may have novel H1N1 flu?

HIV-infected people should do the same things as they would do for routine seasonal flu – contact your health care provider and follow his or her instructions. He or she will determine if laboratory testing or treatment is needed. 

If you are sick, stay home and keep away from others as much as possible.  This is to keep from making others sick.  If you have novel H1N1 flu, you should stay at home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)

WebMD Public Information from the CDC

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