The H1N1 Flu Virus

Antiviral medications are prescription drugs. They may be obtained from a pharmacy with a regular prescription.

There is a national stockpile of antiviral medication, and some provinces and territories also have their own stockpiles. Every province and territory has access to the national stockpile and antivirals have been distributed on a per-capita basis.

Q4. What is the difference between an antiviral and a vaccine?

Antivirals are drugs used for the prevention and early treatment of influenza. If taken shortly after getting sick (within 48 hours), they can reduce influenza symptoms, shorten the length of illness and potentially reduce the serious complications of influenza.

Antivirals work by reducing the ability of the virus to reproduce but do not provide immunity against the virus. The H1N1 Flu Virus can be treated with two different antivirals, oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza).

A vaccine is any preparation intended to produce immunity to a disease by stimulating the production of antibodies. Vaccines are the primary means to prevent illness and death from influenza. They stimulate the production of antibodies against the flu virus components included in the vaccine, providing immunity against the virus.

In order to provide the best protection, a vaccine must be tailored to fight off specific strains of influenza.

Q5. I got my flu shot this year. Will it protect me against H1N1 Flu Virus ?

It is unlikely that the seasonal flu shot will provide protection against H1N1 Flu Virus . The flu shot will protect against the seasonal flu. A new pandemic vaccine will be available to all Canadians who need and want to receive it.

Q6. Should Canadians take any extra measures like wearing surgical masks to avoid catching H1N1 Flu Virus?

Canadians should continue to take normal precautions to protect themselves as they would from a regular flu. While we are investigating to learn more about how this virus spreads, our best advice is for Canadians to wash their hands frequently, cover coughs and sneezes, and stay home when ill.

The Public Health Agency of Canada does not recommend that members of the general public wear surgical masks to protect against contracting H1N1 Flu Virus . Evidence shows that this is not effective in preventing transmission of influenza in the general public. People often use masks incorrectly, or contaminate themselves when putting masks on and taking them off, which could actually increase the risk of infection.

The exception is people who are ill with H1N1 Flu Virus or people who are exhibiting flu-like symptoms. In order to protect those in close contact, like doctors, nurses, and caregivers at home, these people may be asked to wear a face mask.

Q7. What protection will the Government of Canada offer to healthcare workers to protect against H1N1 Flu Virus?

As per normal infection control practices, healthcare workers will need to practice frequent hand washing. When in close contact with affected patients, healthcare workers will use added safeguards such as wearing masks and eye protection.

For more information on protective measures for healthcare workers, visit the Health Professionals section.