This interview was conducted via e-mail with Executive Director of George Mason University’s Student Health Services and University Life, Wagida Abdalla, M.D.

Q:  How do you get swine flu?

A:  The 2009 H1N1 flu virus, originally referred to as swine flu,  is spread like other flu viruses mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing by people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something—such as a surface or object—with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

Q:  What are common symptoms of the virus?

A:  Sudden onset of: fever greater than 100º F, chills, sweats, cough, sore throat, headache and body aches.  These symptoms last about three to seven days.

Q:  What can we do to prevent getting the flu?

A:  Wash hands often with soap and water. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

•  Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

•  Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

•  Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

•  Get vaccinated against H1N1 flu and seasonal flu.

Q:  What should you do if you think you have it?

A: Stay home when you are sick. Do not go to classes for 24 hours after your fever resolves without the use of fever-reducing medication. The more rest you get, the sooner you will feel better.

•  Limit your contact with others to keep from infecting them. Wear a face mask if you absolutely have to leave your room.

•  Drink lots of fluids: two to three liters a day. Hot liquids like tea and broth are excellent choices.

•  Keep your fever down. Take Tylenol or Ibuprofen every four to six hours.

•  If you are not feeling better after three to four days or you have shortness of breath or chest pain, seek immediate medical attention.

Q:  Is there a vaccine to prevent swine flu before you get it?

A: A 2009 H1N1 vaccine is currently in production and will be ready for the public in the fall. The novel H1N1 vaccine is not intended to replace the seasonal flu vaccine – it is intended to be used along-side seasonal flu vaccine.

Q:  Why should or should I not get the vaccine?

A: You should get the vaccine because it will protect you from getting the flu and its complications.  The CDC reported many cases of 2009 H1N1 influenza in young adults 19 through 24 years of age. These  healthy young adults often live, work and study in close proximity, and are a frequently mobile population.

You should not have the vaccine if you have a severe allergy to any component of the vaccine. Talk to your healthcare provider.

Q:  How can you get the vaccine?

A: This year’s seasonal influenza virus may cause  illness at the same time as 2009 H1N1. The seasonal flu vaccine is already available now  and it is recommended that people who are at high risk for serious flu-related complications should be vaccinated early. The 2009 H1N1 vaccine will be available mid-October. Seasonal  flu vaccines are available now at Student Health Services. Visit for flu clinic hours.