Swine flu is the name of the type A influenza virus that affects pigs. Although swine flu does not typically affect humans, there was a global outbreak (pandemic) from 2009 to 2010 , the first flu pandemic in more than 40 years.

It was caused by a then-new flu virus known as H1N1 , a flu virus that is a combination of pig, avian, and human genes that mix in pigs and spread to humans.

H1N1 is now considered a normal type of seasonal flu and is included in the flu vaccine.

History of H1N1 swine flu

H1N1 was first detected in April 2009 in a 10-year-old girl in California. It was declared a global pandemic in June 2009 by the World Health Organization (WHO) and finally ended in August 2010.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that swine flu infected nearly 61 million people in the United States and caused 12,469 deaths. Worldwide, up to 575,400 people died from the swine flu pandemic.

The 1918 flu pandemic was also caused by an H1N1 virus. Known as the Spanish flu, its genes show that it may have developed from a swine flu virus or an avian (bird) flu virus.

The pandemic killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide and was notable in that it had a high death rate among healthy adults.

Swine flu symptoms

The H1N1 flu causes respiratory illness and is highly contagious. Symptoms of the H1N1 virus are similar to seasonal flu and may include:

  • Fever;
  • Body aches;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Cough;
  • Throat pain;
  • Headache;
  • Fatigue;
  • Rhinorrhea;
  • Irritated eyes;
  • Vomiting, nausea;
  • Diarrhea.

What are your causes

Type A influenza viruses have the ability to mix with other strains, creating a new strain, which is what caused the pandemic from 2009 to 2010.

Pigs can contract all three types of influenza (human, swine, and avian), making them perfect containers in which the virus can mix and change. The H1N1 virus is made from porcine, human and avian genes that metamorphosed in pigs, probably several years before the pandemic (hence the name “swine flu”).

Influenza circulates among pigs throughout the year, but is most common in late fall and winter, similar to the human flu season. Sometimes pigs can transmit the flu to working humans.

This is what happened during the pandemic from 2009 to 2010, only in this case, the new H1N1 strain spread rapidly because humans had no immunity against it.

When people contract the H1N1 virus, it is in the same way that they can contract any type of flu: by contact with another sick person, either by droplets in the air that contain the live virus or by touching a surface that has been contaminated and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.

You cannot get the flu from eating pork, although you should always make sure it is well cooked and handled with care.

How it is Diagnosed

If you develop signs of the flu and are in good health, you probably don’t need to see a doctor. However, if you are pregnant, your immune system is compromised, or you have a chronic disease such as asthma, diabetes, emphysema, or a heart condition, you should see your doctor immediately.

Your doctor can diagnose you with the flu by inserting a swab into your nose and / or throat within the first four to five days of illness. There are rapid influenza diagnostic tests that can determine whether or not you have the flu, as well as what type (A or B), although they are not as accurate as other tests.

There are also rapid molecular assays, which are more accurate and can also give a quick result. Since there is more than one strain of the influenza A virus, a positive influenza A test does not necessarily mean that you have the H1N1 virus.

To definitively diagnose and classify the influenza strain you have, such as H1N1, your doctor may send your sample to a specialized hospital or state laboratory for analysis.

Treatment for swine flu

The H1N1 flu is a virus like any other strain of flu. The antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza do not cure the disease, but they can shorten the duration, make the symptoms less severe, or help you avoid it altogether if you are exposed.

They are generally reserved for people at higher risk of complications, thus reducing the likelihood that the virus will develop resistance in them.

On the other hand, treatment for most people consists primarily of comfort measures and treating symptoms as they develop. If you have asthma or emphysema, for example, your doctor might add a medication to help ease your respiratory symptoms. .

Annual flu shots provide immunity against the H1N1 flu, which means that swine flu has become preventable.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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