WHILE taking care of family members who have influenza-like illness, we should protect ourselves and other family members from getting the infection.
I. How do we protect ourselves and others from getting infected by the influenza A(H1N1) virus?
If we have family members who are sick, we should:
i. Improve personal hygiene for all: We should clean their hands often, especially before touching our nose, mouth and eyes, using soap and water or hand sanitisers. After that, we should dry our hands with paper towels or dedicated cloth towels. Commonly used household items or frequently touched surfaces should also be cleaned regularly with detergent.
ii. Stay home: We should advise persons with influenza-like illness not to leave home before they are symptom-free, especially when they are still having fever. (Patients are likely to spread the virus from one day before they develop symptoms to up to seven days after they get sick. They are most infectious when they are having fever.)
iii. Keep your distance: We should avoid being face-to-face with the sick person. When holding small children who are sick, we should place their chins on our shoulders so that they will not cough in our faces. Household contacts, especially those who are at high risk (see below), should try to stay at least 1 meter away from the patient, whenever possible.
iv. Wear a mask: If a person with the influenza-like illness needs to leave the home (e.g for medical care), they should wear a surgical mask, and practise cough etiquette and good hand hygiene.
v. Try not to share: It is preferable for the sick individual to stay in a room separate from other household members, whenever possible. Linen, eating utensils and dishes belonging to those who are sick do not need to be cleaned separately, but these items should not be shared without washing thoroughly first with water and soap.
If possible, sick persons should use a separate bathroom. This bathroom should be cleaned daily with household disinfectantdetergent.
II. What can we do to help our loved ones who are sick?
·Take note whether they are pregnant or have a chronic health condition such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, or chronic lung diseases. If they are within the high risk group, seek immediate medical treatment. If they are not within the high risk group, they should monitor their health condition and stay home (to recover on their own).
·Make an effort to check their health condition regularly when they have influenza-like illness.
·Allow them to rest well, help them to eat well, and ensure that they stay well hydrated (give them lots of fluids).
·Look out for emergency warning signs and seek immediate medical attention if they have any of them (see below).
III. Are there other measures we can take to protect other family members?
·Keep the sick person away from visitors other than caregivers – a phone call is safer than a visit.
·If possible, have only one adult in the home take care of the sick person.
·Avoid having pregnant women care for the sick person. (Pregnant women are at increased risk of influenza A(H1N1)-related complications).
·If possible, consider maintaining good ventilation in shared household areas (e.g. avoid turning the air-conditioner on, and keep windows open in restrooms, kitchens, and bathrooms, etc.).
·Monitor yourself and household members for influenza-like symptoms and contact a healthcare provider if symptoms occur.
IV. Should we continue our daily activities (e.g. go to work, school or public places) if one of our family members is sick?
We do not necessarily have to stop going to work, school or other public places if we are caring for a family member who is sick since one could not be certain whether he/she is infected.
However, it would be good to avoid these places if possible. If you could not, the least you could do is wear a mask, practise good personal hygiene, and social distancing when you are there.