Common cold and flu are really common and very frequently occurring ailments, especially in small children. Most of us as parents either face or remember how we faced sick children when they seem to catch flu like symptoms every now and then with running nose, aches and pains, and fever. In fact there are many different types of flus and not just this common influenza that troubles the authorities as well as the population. Yes, I am talking about two of the most talked about pandemics in the history of human beings in the last century or so. These are avian flu and swine flu, the pandemics that have created panic and fear among the people of many different countries of the world.
The world has seen much deadly flu in the past and in particular three attacks of Spanish flu, Asian flu and Mexican flu in this 20th century resulted in deaths of millions of people. While those were the times when there was not so much of knowledge and preventive measures available were also very few and insufficient. Today, because of the efforts of the scientists and the institutes like CDC, people are much more aware about how flu spreads and how to keep the spread of flu under control. This knowledge of how flu is transmitted is crucial in understanding the spread of the flu and its possible treatment. It is also much easier to save lives with the development of vaccines and other life saving drugs. One shudders to think what would have happened if pandemics like avian flu and swine flu had arrived about hundred years ago.
Physical contact with the infected person is the easiest way of spreading flu
Talking about the ways flu gets transmitted, the main culprits are respiratory droplets that spread in the air and can infect a healthy person breathing in the area. So the sneezing or wheezing by an infected person can easily infect others in the vicinity. The virus is also easy to catch if a person touches an object or thing that has the flu virus and then touches his mouth or nose with the same hand. Shaking hands with a person having flu or kissing him on the lips is also known to spread flu virus. It is possible for a person to give the infection to any other person even before knowing he has caught the infection. This is possible because of the fact that symptoms show up later and the person knows that he has the virus only later.
This knowledge of transmission of virus has saved millions of lives in case of deadly virus strains. This knowledge was not there say a hundred years ago leading to millions losing their lives because of Spanish flu and other deadly viruses. Coming back to the pandemics that struck fear in the minds of the people in many countries of the world first when avian flu came to the limelight and then a decade later when it was the turn of swine flu, both strains of flu happen to have originated in animals before affecting human beings. While avian flu is a disease that produces flu like symptoms in birds such as chickens and ducks, swine flu produces flu in pigs.
It was in Hong Kong in 1999 when the first case of bird flu among human beings was reported and it happened to be a 59 year old woman. Scientists were surprised how a woman could be afflicted with a disease of the chickens. But it later became clear that the flu virus called avian flu could jump off chickens and infect a human being if he or she worked in close proximity of the birds. In most of the case of bird flu it was found that the victims were those working in bird farms and poultry farms.
It was only later that the virus got mutated and developed the ability to directly affect human beings rather than requiring a carrier like a bird. This mutated strain of the virus was capable of spreading from one human being to another and afflicted thousands around the world. The same happened nearly a decade later in 2009 when swine flu, which was a flu of the pigs was seen in human beings. This was actually a mutated version of the swine flu that had the ability to attack and spread among human beings. CDC labeled this strain as 2009 H1N1 and the rest is history.