The H1N1 Flu

This six-part series will answer various questions about the H1N1 flu (or swine flu). All content contained herein is based on information from the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Please always remember to get your yearly flu vaccine to ensure your good health.

Can H1N1 be spread via water? Recreational water that has been treated at CDC recommended disinfectant levels (1–3 parts per million [ppm or mg/L] for pools and 2–5 ppm for spas) does not likely pose a risk for transmission of influenza viruses. Currently, there are no documented human cases of influenza caused by exposure to influenza-contaminated swimming pool water. No research has been completed on the susceptibility of the novel H1N1 flu virus to chlorine and other disinfectants used in swimming pools, spas, water parks, interactive fountains, and other treated recreational venues. However, recent studies have demonstrated that free chlorine levels recommended by CDC are adequate to disinfect highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus. It is likely that other influenza viruses such as the novel H1N1 flu virus would also be disinfected by these chlorine levels. Recreational water venues are no different than any other group setting. The spread of this novel H1N1 flu is thought to be happening in the same way that seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing of people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

What kills influenza virus? Influenza virus is destroyed by heat (167-212°F [75-100°C]). In addition, several chemical germicides, including chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, detergents (soap), iodophors (iodine-based antiseptics), and alcohols are effective against human influenza viruses if used in proper concentration for a sufficient length of time. For example, wipes or gels with alcohol in them can be used to clean hands. The gels should be rubbed into hands until they are dry.

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