Facts you didn’t know about H1N1 aka Swine Flu
Swine flu, also known as pig influenza, pig flu or hog flu, is a contagious influenza strain. H1N1, a subtype of swine flu started in Mexico and was declared by WHO (World Health Organization) as a pandemic as of 2009.
Influenza A or H1N1 virus is one of sub-types of influenza A virus along with other known SIV strains such as H1N2, H3N1, H3N2, H2N3 and influenza C.
H1N1 swine flu is seasonal. People with regular exposure to swine or pigs have an increased risk of contracting swine flu. However, it’s relatively uncommon for the transmission of swine flu from pigs to human. If it does, it is called zoonotic swine flu.
The ability of the H1N1 virus of infecting animal-to-person, and then person-to-person makes it potentially dangerous. Unlike bird flu, H1N1 swine flu has a high possibility of getting transmitted through coughing, sneezing or talking with people infected with H1N1 virus. Sometimes, touching an infected person, from hand to bodily secretions such as saliva residue or mucous can transmit H1N1, making the spread of H1N1 in 2009 fast and worrisome.
2009, the H1N1 pandemic that occurred in the USA and Mexico was declared to be a potent mix of four different influenza viruses – human influenza, North American swine influenza, North American avian influenza (or bird flu) and swine flu that is commonly found in Asia and Europe. All four virus strains are subtypes of H1N1 and became what is known now as influenza H1N1.
People started buying face masks during the 2009 influenza H1N1 pandemic. Which goes to ask, are the face masks effective in protecting people from getting infected with H1N1 virus? Andrew Pekosz, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, said the blue surgical masked passed around in Mexico during that time was only marginally useful as a preventive measure. While these masks can block the transmission of larger virus-carrying droplets sneezed out by an infected person, the smaller ones could easily pass through the masks. There are specialty masks (N-95 or N-99) that can filter the virus better than the ordinary ones. Pekosz also suggested frequent proper hand washing combined with wearing the special face masks can help prevent widespread contamination of influenza H1N1.
Influenza strains can generally infect three different species: humans, pigs and birds. Pigs are the usual suspects. They become the host of influenza viruses that can mutate and exchange genes, creating another new and dangerous virus strain. According to CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), human with H1N1 virus has influenza-like symptoms. However, these H1N1 symptoms are not specific to readily say it is swine flu. The differential diagnosis can be attributed to the infected person’s medical history. CDC advises physicians to take into consideration if the patient is suffering from febrile respiratory illness prior to having swine flu. Influenza H1N1 needed further laboratory testing before a conclusive diagnosis can be gathered through real-time RT- PCR as a diagnostic method for H1N1.
Swine flu symptoms on animals are fever, sneezing, coughing, difficulty in breathing, decreased in appetite and lethargy or weakness. There are some cases that swine flu infected pregnant female can cause abortion. Although death is relatively low, pigs can become emaciated and therefore will cause an economic loss to hog farmers.
Animals infected with swine flu virus can contaminate the rest of the uninfected ones within days when housed together. Humans infected with H1N1 displays general influenza-like symptoms. Among the common H1N1 symptoms are: respiratory complications, severe headaches, sore throat, fever, chills, coughing, muscle pains, weakness, fatigue and discomfort. It’s also believed that H1N1 is responsible for the systematic inflammatory response syndrome that causes pulmonary edema or inflammatory of the lungs that will eventually causes death.
It usually takes about five days of quarantine or isolation time before being declared cured of the H1N1 virus. Infected pregnant women are reported to be in great risk. Certain populations of Native Americans also are at high risk when infected with H1N1.
According to WHO, there are over two hundred and fourteen countries reported to have cases of pandemic H1N1 as of 2010 and the H1N1 virus has caused more than 18,000 deaths so far. The most common cause of death is related complications with the respiratory system. Pneumonia leading to sepsis can also cause death, as well as dehydration (because of excessive diarrhea and vomiting), electrolyte imbalance, high fever that leads to neurological problems and kidney failure. Because it attacks the immune system, children and elderly people are more susceptible to H1N1.
People considered at high risk when infected by H1N1 swine flu are those already having chronic medical conditions. Pregnant women, people over 65 years old, children under 5 years old, people with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and pulmonary diseases are at high risk from H1N1.
Consuming or handling animal products can often transmit some viruses. However, because swine flu is a respiratory virus, H1N1 can only be transmitted from one person to another. According to Christine Layton, a public health policy analyst for RTI International said that “a sneezing chef is a threat, not the spare ribs he’s basting.”
Eating the meat of an infected animal does not present a risk of getting H1N1 virus if the meat is properly cooked. So, rare or medium rare steaks are out of the question. According to clinical tests, people infected with zoonotic swine flu. H1N1 virus shows signs of flu within four days.
Like any other influenza virus, it is unlikely to catch H1N1 virus the second time. Because once a person is inflected with H1N1, the body will develop an immune resistance to it, preventing the occurrence of suffering the same identical influenza virus. However, there are some people with weak immune systems, making them susceptible to contract the same influenza virus more than once. In this case, the person might suffer not just with H1N1 but other influenza viruses as well.
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