Inspired by this story:
Here are the stats (IN THE US) so far: 57 million U.S. illnesses, 257,000 hospitalizations and 11,690 deaths, including 1,180 children.
Does that sound like anything to worry about? Well, what are the stats for SEASONAL flu in the US? Here they are: In a normal flu season, the CDC estimates that 36,000 Americans die of flu but 90 percent are over the age of 65. CDC estimates that 200,000 go into the hospital, again mostly the elderly.
So, doesn’t sound that much different from the regular flu, right? Well, just look at the AGE GROUPS being hit – H1N1 (swine flu) mostly hits children and YOUNG adults. Seasonal flu mainly kills the elderly, according to the CDC.
So why is it so bad? And why does it affect mainly children and young adults? We’ll delve into this a bit farther for you, and hopefully translate it into meaningful language.
So, what is swine flu? Its full name is swine influenza A (H1N1). Not that that tells us much. You should know that human, avian (bird) and swine flu virus DNA has been detected in this particular virus. This is a new virus, one which our immune systems have never seen before. Questions about people who were exposed to the last swine flu outbreak (in the 40’s?) should be put to rest by this – THEY ARE NOT THE SAME VIRUS!!! *note – as much as 1/3 of people over the age of 60 might have some immunity to the virus, as it is slightly similar to the one that occurred in the 40s. That being said, most people are still vulnerable to the virus. Everyone who is in a high risk group should be vaccinated. I might cover vaccines in another post, but suffice it to say, the vaccine is the SAME as the seasonal flu – just a different viral strain. It’s made the same way, has the same risks and side effects. So don’t take advice from people telling you it’s experimental – like I said, it is the SAME vaccine.
The fact that it is new is what is so deadly. Here are some of the symptoms of swine flu, and seasonal flu:
Seasonal Flu symptoms:
- fever (often high)
- extreme tiredness
- dry cough
- sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
- muscle aches
Swine Flu (H1N1) Symptoms:
- Sore throat
- Body aches
Now, some of you might be looking at that list and thinking “Hey, I’ve had seasonal flu, and been vomiting and had diarrhea. Why didn’t you include those on the seasonal flu list?” Funny you should say that – intestinal symptoms sometimes ARE present in seasonal flu, which is why the diagnosis (without testing) is hard. But, stomach and intestinal symptoms in the seasonal flu are most common in children. These symptoms are fairly frequently seen in swine flue, however, which is why they are included on that list.
I would like to mention that with swine flu, you can infect other people 1 day BEFORE YOU FEEL SICK to 5-7 days after you become ill. The current recommendation, since this is such a contagious strain, is that if you feel sick, stay home!
So, how do you prevent yourself from becoming sick? First, get vaccinated. Second, wash your hands!!! I don’t know how many people I see coming out from the men’s bathrooms without having washed their hands. I then see them go into the restaurant (whatever is closest) to eat, with their unwashed hands. You touch money; that money might have H1N1 on it, and you’d never know. So, before you scratch your eyes, pick your nose, or eat anything, wash up!!!
So, lastly, why does this really affect healthy individuals in the 15-60 age group? I’m not going to get into the specifics, but think of it this way; young children don’t have developed immunity, or have slightly weak immune systems, and so when they get the flu and their immune system reacts to it, it leaves them vulnerable to other infections. They react to the swine flu the same way – weakly. The elderly, on the other hand, have seen many different strains of flu in their lifetime, and so are afforded immunity simply by being exposed so much. Thus, they already have some protecting factors, and their immune systems also react weakly when triggered.
A healthy individual has a rather powerful immune system. When it sees something similar to what it’s already seen, it reacts, let say, normally. So, it uses protective factors it already has, along with SOME new factors. Here comes H1N1 – a completely new beast. A healthy, young adult’s immune system reacts EXTREMELY strongly to it; so strongly, in fact, that for a few days the immune system does quite a bit of damage (not long term, but damage nonetheless) to your body. In most people, they fully recover from this without any intervention; but for some, this can be deadly. Those especially at risk are those with respiratory (breathing) problems like asthma; most people that die from H1N1 die from respiratory failure.
Here’s hoping that this cleared up some information on H1N1. Please get vaccinated, as it’s your best chance for not getting the virus, along with washing your hands. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment!