Swine flu is a form of influenza type A.
Influenza type A or B are the 2 main types of flu viruses (also type c) that have been around for hundreds of years in various forms, and are routinely spread from person to person every flu season.
-Influenza type A is found in people and animals as well as in birds. Type B is found only in humans and usually has much less severe symptoms. Type C is milder still and closer to a mild cold.
Whether it's type A or B, it's more commonly referred to as the seasonal flu, and we've all suffered through it, (how to prevent flu) and likely on more than one occasion in our lives, during the flu season.
But in the spring of 2009 a new strain of type A was discovered in Mexico that has been since referred to as the Swine Flu. It is more accurately known as H1N1, the H1N1 Virus and novel H1N1.
-In June of 2009 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the H1N1 pandemic (worldwide) to alert level phase 6, the first time this has occurred since the Hong Kong flu of 1968. (see symptoms)
In October of 2009, President Barack Obama declared this H1N1 virus strain a national emergency, and by the end of November -WHO announced, "207 countries and overseas territories/communities have reported laboratory confirmed cases of pandemic influenza H1N1 2009, including at least 8,768 deaths."
Although the 2009 "Swine flu" has come and gone, H1N1 is still making folks sick, in fact it even continues to kill in some areas of the world, and will remain a threat for years.
-According to WHO, in December of 2010 and January 2011, cases of H1N1 were reported in Ireland, England, Korea, New Zealand, India, Sri Lanka and in Germany as well.
These viral infections have no cure. It's the same as when you get a common cold or flu. Over-the-counter products you may take are designed to treat the symptoms of the cold or flu and in most cases the symptoms will generally become less severe as the virus runs its course, and you feel better.
What's in a name?
The swine flu was so named because earlier strains of influenza A, had genes in common with a flu virus that is common in North American pigs. (also known as swine)
-When the flu strain pandemic was first announced, many people believed that only those who worked with pigs or who ate pork could become infected with the virus, neither is true.
Many infected even denied having this strain of flu, to avoid what they perceived as a negative association. This only made the spread of the virus much more prevalent.
-H1N1 2009 is not the same strain as found in pigs.
There had been much debate about what the strain should be called, but right or wrong, it became commonly known as "Swine Flu"
-The new version had two genes from viruses usually found in European pigs, but also had genes in common with bird flu and other human strains of the flu virus.
Because of this, it was also known as "quadruple re-assortment H1N1"
How does H1N1 differ from seasonal flu?
The H1N1 flu virus differs from the seasonal common flu, in its main viral composition. This is what makes each and every strain unique.
-This particular strain had never been seen anywhere in the world before, and because of this no one had any previous immunity to it.
When vaccines are prepared, each vaccination contains a portion of the virus specific to that particular strain.
-It had been discovered that the H1N1 virus was very similar to an influenza virus outbreak that existed in the early 1900s. Because of the long passage of time however, few people living in 2009 had any immunity at all to protect them from it. This is why there was so much concern.
Without this previous immunity, the possibility existed that a lot more people, other than the usual high-risk groups (children under 5, pregnant women and adults over 65) would possibly contract the strain and become sick, and quite possibly very sick.
-In fact, this particular flu virus strain seemed to affect more people in other age groups, than any other influenza strain ever seen before.
The symptoms are similar to those of the seasonal flu virus. There was no way to tell it from the seasonal flu bug unless a doctor took a sample swab from the persons throat or nasal passages.
-A testing laboratory could then analyze the culture taken.
Much like the common cold or flu, symptoms often included:
But unlike the seasonal flu or a cold, the H1N1 virus included diarrhea and vomiting in over 25% of the cases seen, often-times quite severe.
-Also, unlike seasonal flu, 25% of the deaths and over 50% of the hospitalizations were among young children and adults under the age of 25.
-Yes, even more so when seen in children and young adults, and in some cases were even life threatening.
Especially worrisome symptoms included:
*For adults, these symptoms sometimes also included dizziness, confusion and chest pain.
Symptoms often improved only to return even more severe.
What Was the Best Treatment for H1N1?
Although there were some reports that antivirals such as Tamiflu and Relenza had lost some of their effectiveness against the seasonal flu, they were in fact seen to be effective in preventing the H1N1 virus.
-In treatment after the fact, (within 48 hours of onset) they also worked well, along with traditional treatments for any specific symptoms.
*It is also very important to note that you should stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids as you fight any viral infection.
Should I get vaccinated for new flu strains? -Are Vaccines safe?
Doctors and scientists always recommend getting vaccinated for seasonal flu virus first, to help build up your system's antibodies and therefore your body's ability to fight back against the current version of the virus.
-This may also be of help against any new strain, as the body will be less susceptible to this component of the virus.
At the very least, your symptoms may be less severe and with a shorter duration than someone who did not receive the seasonal flu vaccine.
-Protection from Swine Flu is included in current flu vaccinations.
Who received the Swine flu vaccine first?
-People caring for infants younger than 6 months old
-Those in medical or healthcare service
-Toddlers 6 months old and up through adults 24 years old.
-Adults 25 - 64 who may be a higher risk for respiratory complications resulting from existing health conditions or other health problems.
-Pregnant women and children under the age of 5 were especially vulnerable and were advised to definitely get the swine flu vaccine.
-Unlike the seasonal flu, Swine flu was more prevalent among people under 24 years of age.
-It was also much less likely to occur in people over the age of 65.
In most cases, this flu strain ran it's course much like the seasonal flu.
-It's always a very good idea to get vaccinated as it may prevent the spread to those who may be at a higher risk of complications from any virus.
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