The H1N1 virus, or “swine flu” as it’s commonly known, was a strain of influenza that became pandemic in 2009. In the subsequent years, the virus was one of the most prevalent concerns of the worldwide medical community. Though the virus has not been as prominent in recent years, it can still infect people and have drastic effects in some regions of the world.
Here are 10 facts about H1N1 influenza:
- H1N1 is commonly referred to as the “swine flu” due to its similarities with the flu virus that affects pigs in North America. Further study has shown that it is different than the other virus and carries two genes that normally occur in European and Asian pigs, birds and people.
- The virus spreads the same way as the regular seasonal flu virus. It is contagious and can be contracted through coughing, sneezing or even talking to someone carrying it. It can also be contracted through mouth or nose contact with something contaminated.
- The H1N1 influenza virus causes moderate to severe respiratory infections. Symptoms include fever, sore throat, cough, headache, chills and fatigue. Severe cases include bacterial pneumonia bronchitis, sinus infections and an increase in underlying conditions.
- H1N1 is most severe in infants, young children, the elderly and individuals with pre-existing chronic diseases. Mortality rates in people less than 65 are significantly higher than those associated with the common flu.
- People infected with H1N1 become contagious generally one day before showing symptoms and can continue to spread the virus for five to seven days after. Those with weaker immune systems, such as children, are generally contagious for longer.
- H1N1 can also affect various farm animals, including pigs and turkeys. Domestic animals such as dogs, cats and ferrets are also susceptible to the virus due to close contact with humans.
- It is estimated that more than half of the deaths caused by the H1N1 were in the Southeast Asian and African regions. This could be due in part to the quality of healthcare and limited availability of vaccines and medications.
- An estimated 105,700-395,600 people died due to respiratory complications attributed to H1N1 influenza during the first 12 months of the virus’s outbreak. This constitutes 0.001-0.007 percent of the world’s population.
- The virus was given pandemic status in 2009 after the disease spread rapidly throughout the U.S. and Mexico. It was announced to be in post-pandemic stages August 10, 2010. More than 200 regions across the globe have been affected by the virus.
- There have been more recent outbreaks of the disease. In 2015, India reportedly had over 31,000 people infected and 1,900 resulting deaths. There was a small outbreak in the Maldives in early 2017 with 185 reportedly having tested positive for the virus.
Vaccination is still the best protection against H1N1 influenza. Other measures can be taken, including hand washing, avoiding people showing symptoms and avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth. It is also suggested to get vaccinated against the disease if traveling to an area where contracting H1N1 is a possibility.
– Drew Hazzard