H1N1 or influenza A (otherwise known as the swine flu) is a potentially harmful virus that first made its appearance in human in the spring of this year.
The virus came to be known as the swine flu in the media because one of the surface proteins that it is composed of is very similar to a virus that infects pigs. In North America this virus has been spreading throughout the pig population for many years but has also now begun to spread to humans. Why this is the case is not known.
It is important to note that eating pork will not cause you to develop the swine flu. It is essential however that you always wash your hands thoroughly before handling meat of any kind. Even if the virus was transferred through the meat (which it is not), cooking would kill all traces of it.
Let us look at some of the most significant issues surrounding the H1N1 virus …
Many people hear the world pandemic and they panic. The word makes them think that the virus is waiting to infect them as soon as they walk out their door. This is not the case at all. In June of this year the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the swine flu was a Phase 6 pandemic which happens to be the highest level of alert there is. This has nothing to do with how serious or deadly the virus is. What it means is that the virus has spread to a selection of countries NOT that it is worsening in severity.
Despite what the television and newspapers might have you believe, just like the seasonal flu, H1N1 can be treated and in fact causes only minor illness in most people. It is only in the most extreme cases where individuals require hospitalization. Most over-the-counter drugs can help to lessen symptoms such as fever and body aches.
One of the most effective ways to protect yourself is the same for every type of virus – wash your hands frequently, and in particular after coming into contact with contaminated surfaces used by many people such as doorknobs, telephones and computers. Use regular soap and water and carry sanitizing wipes with you. Antibacterial soap will not help because it fights bacteria and H1N1 is a virus. It is also important that you keep your hands away from your face as much as possible.
Contrary to popular belief, those over the age of 65 are not in a high risk group for contracting H1N1. In fact the seasonal winter flu can be more dangerous for elderly individuals than H1N1.The most susceptible groups for contracting H1N1 include pregnant women, children under the age of two, individuals under 65 years of age who have medical problems such as asthma or diabetes that could result in complications developing from the flu, and caregivers and health employees who work with infants.
There was a rush put on production of the H1N1 vaccine however it is both safe and effective. The vaccine is highly recommended for those in high risk categories. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must clear every batch of the H1N1 vaccine before it is released. The H1N1 vaccine is made in the same way as the seasonal flu vaccine. It is given to an estimated 100 million Americans on an annual basis and there are very few side effects ever seen. The ones that are noted are minor. The vaccine has been studied extensively and put through a multitude of clinical trials and does not show a reaction any different than that of the winter flu vaccine.
To learn more about the H1N1 virus visit these websites: