The “swine flu” (or Influenza) caused a worldwide flu outbreak that lasted from 2009 to 2010. This virus is a form of seasonal flu. Its scientific name is A/H1N1pdm09, or simply “H1N1”.
The H1N1 virus was first found in Mexico, back in April of 2009. It became known as “swine flu” because of its similarity to viruses that affect pigs.
Only a few young people were immune to it. Therefore, it spread rapidly across the world, causing a pandemic. However, the outbreak was not as severe as originally expected. For example, in the UK, most cases were relatively mild, although there were some serious cases as well.
The small number of cases that led to severe illness, including death, were mostly children, young adults with previous health conditions, and pregnant women. The WHO declared the pandemic over in August of 2010.
Recently, since “Flurona”, there have been some rumors that H1N1 might be on the rise again. Consequently, you may be wondering: What happened to swine flu? Is swine flu still around? Should you be precautious during your travels?
In today’s post, we’ll discuss some of the most common questions regarding the “swine flu”. We’ll cover:
- What is “swine flu”
- Who is at higher risk of contracting it
- How it spreads
- “Swine Flu” today and how to prevent it
Let’s dive in.
What Is Influenza (Flu)?
The flu is an infectious respiratory disease brought about by influenza viruses. It affects the nose, throat, and in some cases, the lungs. Although similar, unlike a common cold, the flu tends to strike suddenly.
Common symptoms include:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills (this may not happen in every case)
- Sore throat
- A runny or stuffed-up nose
- Muscle aches
- Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults)
Influenza symptoms usually appear about 2 days after exposure, but they can take anywhere between 1-4 days. Some people might not develop any symptoms. Still, mild to severe illness is possible, and sometimes it can also result in death. In fact, a study published in the Clinical Infectious Diseases Journal suggests that children are more likely than adults to become ill from influenza.
Moreover, diagnosis can’t be done by considering symptoms alone. Testing is required.
Who is at Higher Risk?
Anyone can get infected with influenza, regardless of age or health conditions. However, some individuals are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill.
- People aged 65 and older
- Children younger than 5
- Pregnant women
- People with chronic medical conditions, such as Asthma
- Those with neurologic and nervodevelopment conditions
- Individuals with a weakened immune system due to a disease
- Individuals who have had a stroke
Complications of Flu
In addition to common symptoms, a severe flu infection may also include:
- Bacterial pneumonia
- Ear infections
- Sinus infections
- Worsening of chronic medical conditions (e. g, congestive heart failure, diabetes, asthma)
How Does “Swine Flu” Spread?
Infected individuals can spread the disease to others within a six-foot radius. Researchers believe that influenza viruses are spread primarily by tiny droplets created by coughing, sneezing, or talking. Those nearby can receive these droplets in their mouths or noses and get infected as a result. In rare cases, a person may also get ill by touching an infected surface and later touching their mouth, nose, or even their eyes.
Usually, infected individuals are the most contagious during the first 3-4 days after getting sick, even if they’re asymptomatic. Additionally, most healthy adults might pass the virus 1 day before developing symptoms and up to 5-7 days after becoming ill. In the case of children and those with weakened immune systems, they may spread the virus for longer than 7 days.
Is “Swine Flu” still around? How Do You Prevent It?
Currently, H1N1 is one of many seasonal flu viruses circulating every winter. In fact, if you’ve had the flu during the past few years, there are chances that it might have been this virus. Due to this, many people today are somehow immune to H1N1 and it’s not as much of a concern as it was back in 2009.
Symptoms are similar to those seen with other types of flu. Usually, they are mild and pass after 1-2 weeks. Yet, just like other flu strains, there are people who are at higher risk of severe infection.
If you’re worried about getting infected with H1N1, you may be interested in getting a yearly flu shot. According to the evidence, the flu vaccine can reduce the risk of flu-related illnesses, hospitalizations, and severe infections. Additionally, the CDC advises people to prevent flu by taking everyday precautions, such as:
- Keeping a distance from those who are infected
- Covering your face with your elbow when you cough or sneeze
- Washing your hands frequently
If you’re planning to travel abroad, swine flu probably isn’t a top health concern, but Covid-19 still should be. The easiest way to stay safe from Covid is to get tested. Whether you’re at home or abroad, discover Covid-19 testing locations in our international directory.