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Social Distancing to Prevent the Spread of Swine Flu

CDC recommends that affected states with at least one laboratory-confirmed case of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection consider activating “social distancing” in an effort to limit spread of the virus. “Social distancing” means voluntary home quarantine of members of households with confirmed or probable swine influenza cases, reduction of unnecessary social contacts, and avoidance whenever possible of crowded settings. The following guidelines are recommended to maintain social distancing.

Strongly Recommend Home Isolation of Cases

  • Persons who develop influenza-like-illness (ILI) (fever with either cough or sore throat) should be strongly encouraged to self-isolate in their home for 7 days after the onset of illness or at least 24 hours after symptoms have resolved, whichever is longer. Persons who experience ILI and wish to seek medical care should contact their health care providers to report illness (by telephone or other remote means) before seeking care at a clinic, physician’s office, or hospital. Persons who have difficulty breathing or shortness of breath or are believed to be severely ill should seek immediate medical attention.
  • If ill persons must go into the community (e.g., to seek medical care) they should wear a face mask to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. If a face mask is unavailable, ill persons needing to go into the community should use a handkerchief or tissues to cover any coughing.
  • Persons in home isolation and their household members should use good infection control precautions including frequent hand washing with soap and water. Use alcohol-based hand gels (containing at least 60%alcohol) when soap and water are not available and hands are not visibly dirty. When the ill person is within 6 feet of others at home, the ill person should wear a face mask.

Regarding Household Contacts

Household contacts who are well should:

  1. remain home at the earliest sign of illness;
  2. minimize contact in the community to the extent possible;
  3. designate a single household family member as the ill person’s caregiver to minimize interactions with asymptomatic persons.

Other Social Distancing Interventions

  • Large gatherings linked to settings or institutions with laboratory-confirmed cases should be cancelled, for example a school event linked to a school with cases.
  • Persons with underlying medical conditions who are at high risk for complications of influenza may wish to consider avoiding large gatherings.

These recommendations are subject to change as additional information is available.