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How contagious is swine 'flu?

Firstly huge apologies for starting another swine 'flu thread - I couldn't really see where this question fitted and I'm genuinely quite worried at the moment. Mods, please feel free to move/combine/delete it.

I know that asthmatics are no more likely than anyone else to get swine 'flu but that it can be more dangerous if we do get it. I'm very unwell at the moment with my asthma, just about managing 50% PEF (being very very closely monitored by consultant) and for the first time, worried about getting swine 'flu (or anything else, I suppose, because it's likely to totally knock me).

The trouble is, I live in a traditional student hall of residence (shared bathrooms, toilets, kitchens, eating meals together) and we have three cases. The other students haven't been told to avoid mass panic (although suddenly there's lots of posters about symptoms up and hand gels appearing everywhere(!)) , but the hall managers took me aide and let me know because I'm unwell and they're keeping a close eye on me anyway.

My question is how contagious is it actually. I don't know which students are involved, although I assume I would have been told if they were on my corridor (and I haven't heard any coughing etc here) but we do all come into close contact through meals, communal areas etc. I'm being absolutely meticulous about hand washing and only choosing food eaten with a knife/fork etc rather than fingers - is there anything else I can do and is there any need to worry or am I probably exposed to a greater risk when travelling on public transport?

I'd be grateful for any reassurance.


22 Replies

I'd carry antiseptic wipes for all common surfaces - the government ads would appear to suggest that's the problem areas.


think it spreads like a normal cold.

If you dont have the jab then maybe get a few normal cold items in eg paracetamols .

My brother inlaw and nece had swine flu but my sister and nephew never got it and live in same house and close to them,so try not to worry and just take a few precautions.

lots of love Glynis.

ps welcome pm me anytime to chat xxxx


Think about the advert on TV its air born as in people near you coughing and sneezing can pass it on it is also passed by touch as in someone has coughed not used a tissue to cough into only their hand they then touch something you touch and pick it up that way. Are they not offering taminflu anymore I had tamiflue when we had our famdemic (made up work for family epidemic) and did not get it.


The new Government ad is scary. I wonder if it has added to my fear.

They are still doing Tamiflu I think for people with suspected swine 'flu and maybe their immediate families, but they wouldn't do that in halls because there's nearly 500 of us living here and would probably cause more worry.


Hi Ratty,

Is your Asthma under control,if not maybe a asthma review is needed.iF you are a little run down you could also see your doctor as genraly people who are run down seem to pick things up easy xxxx

love Glynis xxxxx


A ball park answer is: about as contagious as normal 'flu, which is probably slightly more contagious than a usual cough/cold.

It's a respiratory virus, so spread via droplets - cough/sneeze/nasal secretions.

You'd probably need about 5-10 mins of close contact with an index case to catch it directly from them (same room, within speaking distance).

Best preventions - handwashing, alcowipes, hard surface cleaning. Sounds as though you're doing all the right things :)


Think like most people have said its about the same as regular old flu

I've just had suspected swine flu and though i was only at work one day while I had symptoms i managed to not pass it to anyone. I put this firmly down to the good hygeine that i practiced. Coughing into hankies, throwing them away straight away and washing my hands/using hand gels etc.

As for Tamiflu, i dont know if regions vary but when i got my prescrption for tamiflu the doctor said that they are now only giving tamiflu to risk group patients and that i was getting it because asthma puts me in those groups. Otherwise healthy people are being told to do as they would for normal flu unless their symptoms worsen or are really bad when the doc sees them.

I wouldn't worry about it too much as I think worring about these things just make the situation worse. Just keep up the good hygeine and try and not to touch your face without washing your hands first and stay away from people who are ill or have bad hygeine!

Even with all this though you still might catch it. i wasn't even near anyone who looked as if hey had flu symptoms and i still caught it (though ive always seemed to be very suscpetible to flu for some reason).

Main thing is if you do start to get symptoms to phone a doc straight away as to get any benefit you need to start taking tamiflu in the first 2 days


Thanks everyone for your reassurance - I shall keep calm and carry on! Pampam - your comment ""stay away from people who are ill or have bad hygiene"" made me laugh - we're talking about mainly 18 year old students away from home for the first time many of who are completely flummoxed by the notion of a washing machine/tissue/shower/bath... - OK, I'm being very unfair, but there are some who fit that category!

I think it's because I'm unwell that I'm worried - I'm desperate to do anything to avoid hospital again but I'm also realistic that if I get anything I'm going to struggle to fight it at the moment as I'm struggling without an infection. I'm counting the days until the vaccine is available - they should do a swine 'flu advent calendar - yeah, just an excuse for more chocolate!


Cathbear - my overly-medicated too tired too read clearly head read your precaution of using ""alcowipes"" as alco-cow-pies!!! :S I was trying to work out how eating steak and ale pies was going to prevent the spread of pig flu...

I think I should go back to sleep now!


ratty, the alcoholic pies might be a nice idea, give them a try and let us know how they taste.


Sorry I know it's off topic but....steak and ale pies....yummmmmmmmmmm


OK, off topic, but Fee, you make that sound nice. Shame i don't drink, but then eating alcoholic food isn't the same as drinking....is it ? ooO)


Well I don't drink either. I always felt the alcohol was always cooked off - certainly doesn't make me ill when it's cooked and it tastes luverly mmmmmmmm!


Swine Flu and Asthma -Experts discuss the risk of swine flu complications faced by asthma patients.

By Stephanie Watson

WebMD Feature -Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Before the latest flu season had officially gotten under way, the swine flu (or H1N1 virus) was already stealing headlines as it left a trail of fever, aches, and general misery across the country. For people with asthma, watching the swine flu sweep across the nation has been especially nerve wracking. Both swine flu and asthma attack the airways, and having both conditions makes people particularly vulnerable to severe respiratory complications from swine flu. ""Patients with asthma are more likely to develop lower respiratory infections, including pneumonia, as well as asthma exacerbations,"" says James Li, MD, PhD, FAAAAI, professor of medicine and chairman of the allergy and immunology division at the Mayo Clinic.

When Jack McNeill, an 18-year-old freshman at Vanderbilt University, developed symptoms of the 2009 H1N1 swine flu in September, his condition quickly deteriorated. ""I went to bed on a Tuesday night feeling fine. I woke up the next morning and felt terrible,"" he recalls. ""I was dizzy, weak, feverish, and simply in a fog."" After a doctor at the student health center put him on Tamiflu he started feeling better, but within a couple of days he had begun coughing so severely that he was bringing up blood. ""I could not do anything remotely active without beginning to wheeze,"" he says. ""My chest was very tight and I had trouble taking in big breaths.""

Taking a combination of antiviral and asthma medications finally eased McNeill's symptoms, but not all asthma patients with H1N1 swine flu are so fortunate. In fact, research has found that asthma is the leading underlying medical condition found among H1N1 patients requiring hospitalization. Nearly 30% of both child and adult patients hospitalized for swine flu have asthma.

If you have asthma, there are steps you can take to avoid getting H1N1, and tips to follow if you do develop symptoms of swine flu.

How can people with asthma protect themselves from the swine flu?

Don't wait until you're sick to take action. It's never too early to prepare yourself for the swine flu. Talk to your doctor about creating -- and updating -- a personal Asthma Action Plan as soon as possible. ""People with asthma should talk to their doctor and have a clearly delineated plan, and preferably a written plan, on what actions to take should they suspect they are developing an H1N1 infection,"" says Li. That plan may involve monitoring your peak flow rates at home and having an inhaler or nebulizer on hand in case your asthma flares up.

Also practice a few simple hygiene tips to avoid getting sick:

* Wash your hands throughout the day (and whenever you cough or sneeze) with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

* Avoid putting your hands on your nose or mouth.

* Stay away from anyone who appears to be sick.

* If you think you might be coming down with the flu, stay at home and rest until you feel better.

What symptoms should people with asthma look out for?

The symptoms of the swine flu look a lot like symptoms of the regular flu, so it's often hard to tell them apart. In general, watch out for these symptoms:

* Sore throat

* Fever

* Coughing

* Headache

* Muscle aches

* Nasal congestion

* Chills

* Fatigue

* Vomiting and diarrhea in some people

In people with asthma, the following breathing symptoms can also develop:

* Shortness of breath or irregular breathing

* Tightness in the chest

* Wheezing

Because having asthma increases the risk of serious complications from H1N1, call your doctor right away if you have a high fever or are having difficulty breathing.

Should everyone with asthma get the H1N1 vaccine?

Yes. Just about everyone with asthma should receive the H1N1 vaccine, according to Li. The only exceptions are people who currently have a fever, those with a severe allergy to chicken egg, or who have had a severe reaction after a previous flu vaccination (including a rare neurological disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome).

Don't forget that asthma also poses a higher risk for complications from the seasonal flu. Even so, many people with asthma skip the seasonal flu vaccine. Only about 40% of adults with asthma got vaccinated during the 2006-2007 flu season. Protect yourself by getting both flu vaccines (remember that the seasonal flu vaccine does not provide immunity against swine flu).

Which H1N1 vaccine should I get?

If you have asthma, experts recommend that you get the injected H1N1 vaccine, which contains a killed virus, rather than the intranasal vaccine, which contains a live but weakened virus. The live virus in the nasal vaccine could potentially trigger asthma flare-ups in some people.

How is the swine flu treated in people with asthma?

The H1N1 virus can be treated with the same antiviral medications used to treat the seasonal flu, including Tamiflu. However, asthma patients should avoid taking Relenza because of reports that it can cause narrowing of the airways and breathing problems.

Antiviral drugs are most effective when started within the first 48 hours after symptoms begin. Your doctor may prescribe additional medications for increased asthma symptoms. More serious complications, such as pneumonia, may require a trip to the hospital.

Copyright ©2009, WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved

*edit* original text tinyurl.com/ylfwbfl


Hope no one minds me posting the actual text, but it is basic hard sensible facts and advice that would get missed if i just posted a link.


you should probably check terms of use before posting whole articles

Hi Woody-som,

that's a very useful article but to keep the mods out of trouble, it's a good idea to check the terms of use for such sites before reproducing whole articles. Most permit download/copying of whole articles for personal use only, not 'republishing' (I used to work in research libraries, so copyright was always cropping up. the rule used to be you could quote 10% of an article but not all, don't know if that's still the case). WebMD's terms here - webmd.com/about-webmd-polic... :

""...WebMD authorizes you to view or download a single copy of the material on the WebMD Site solely for your personal, noncommercial use if you include the following copyright notice: ""Copyright ©2009, WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved"" and other copyright and proprietary rights notices that are contained in the Content. Any special rules for the use of certain software and other items accessible on the WebMD Site may be included elsewhere within the Site and are incorporated into these Terms and Conditions by reference.

The Content is protected by copyright under both United States and foreign laws. Title to the Content remains with WebMD or its licensors. Any use of the Content not expressly permitted by these Terms and Conditions is a breach of these Terms and Conditions and may violate copyright, trademark, and other laws. Content and features are subject to change or termination without notice in the editorial discretion of WebMD. All rights not expressly granted herein are reserved to WebMD and its licensors.

If you violate any of these Terms and Conditions, your permission to use the Content automatically terminates and you must immediately destroy any copies you have made of any portion of the Content. ...


Hi Claire,

good point about copyright, my understanding was as long as you don't claim credit for it, acknowledge original ownership, and not make any financial gain, you are basically OK. Any lawyers like to clarify?

BTW, I thought that the mods and rockers were all gone, 60's and 70's wasn't it. and they always in trouble ;)


Hi Woody,

it's the 'republishing' area which is quite murky*. I don't think it's limited to commercial republishing and I know some internet fora don't allow whole articles to be reprinted in their comments sections for this reason. To be on the safe side, if you are reproducing WeBMD content in full, include their copyright info - ""Copyright ©2009, WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved"" and any other copyright and proprietary rights notices that are contained in the content. Same goes for other sources, and also always check the individual website's 'terms and conditions of use' information.

*Edit - the murkiness arises from the fact that Asthma UK is the owner of this site, so could technically be seen as the re-publisher. It's different to re-publishing (obviously with permission, citing copyright etc) on a site you own yourself.


Not a lawyer - have to admit I'm not clear here either. I've always done on the basis that as long as you clearly detail the source, it's OK.


It all comes under the legal concept of 'fair use', which is rather complex and rules vary between jurisdictions! There is a wikipedia entry here which is quite useful though US biased, esp. 'common misunderstandings' - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_...

As Cathbear says, always cite sources, give copyright info. And I would be cautious about quoting whole articles without permission.


I would say that reposting an article in the way Woody has is within fair use boundaries - Woody is passing on the info (and has left the original copyright notice intact) rather than republishing it for other purposes.

But, just in case:

If the copyright holder of ANY text that appears on the Asthma UK website would like us to remove that content, please contact webeditor@asthma.org.uk with full details and we'll take care of it.


Should have put the link as well, but couldn't find the article, well now have so here it is.



For reference, the UK Copyright service has information on 'fair use' here - copyrightservice.co.uk/copy... e (space added) and there is other useful info on the sidebar.

To return to Ratty's original question, most of the schools around here have a pretty high level of absence at the moment, reportedly H1N1. I had it (or at least I'm fairly sure that was it!) about 2 weeks ago and it was horrid, still don't feel 100%. Fortunately the asthmatic member of the family was away on business and seems to have escaped so far, tho' he is keen to get the jab when it's available.


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