What is it?
Swine Influenza is basically just a viral respiratory infection in pigs caused by the Influenza virus type A subtypes H1N1, H1N2, H3N1, H3N2, and H2N3. This virus has since mutated and become transferable from pig to human. It is has recently been found in humans that work with swine, and has mutated to transfer between infected humans to non infected humans creating the pandemic level 5. Since this replication of the H1N1 virus is new, there is a low chance that any species will have a natural immunity from being exposed to the virus previously, and a high rate of susceptibility for infection in most species that come into contact with the virus. The HA protein on the surface of the virus has mutated to enable this transference from pigs to humans, and humans to other humans. The HA protein is a surface glycoproteins of the influenza virus, and is the most important in the replication and mutations of the influenza virus that allows the virus to mutate and infect previously unexposed hosts. This change and mutation over time of the same virus’s surface glycoproteins is called antigenic drift which is a measure of the variation of difference between the previous viruses hosts have been exposed to, and the current differences in the viruses infecting hosts in the current climate. The larger the variation between the previous version and the new one predicts the likelihood that natural immunity from previous exposure does not exist.
Why is Swine Flu causing so much panic, and why is it so dangerous?
Well to be honest, it isn’t very dangerous. More people die of diarrhea world wide than they do of the flu. Its’ merely an influenza strain that, at worst, can cause the symptoms of a normal flu virus along with more reported cases of vomiting and diarrhea than other versions. The danger comes into play because lots of people who have had the flu before have no immunity since this virus has mutated and replicated to such a degree that it is different and unrecognized by natural antibodies that exist in the human immune system. Along with your natural antibodies not recognizing this version of the virus, a lifelong immunity is not possible with the various mutations that occur very frequently with influenza. With so many mutations over time, an effective safe vaccine for the new virus is also not possible as a prevention method. Normally the virus alone is not fatal, and recovery can take anywhere from 7days or more. The real danger comes with the possible accompanying bacterial infection which could lead to pneumonia, or fluid in the lungs, which can be fatal if left untreated. So even though this virus has caused an estimated 160 deaths in Mexico with 48 confirmed as swine flu, it is highly likely that the resulting pneumonia or a secondary bacterial infection was the actual cause of death, and not solely the swine flu virus. About 36,000 Americans die as a result of the flu, and its complications every year, so the numbers reported thus far from the swine flu outbreak are hardly startling. The real paranoia concerning this outbreak is the fault of the media. Even though the virus has an extremely high rate of transference from human to human, its merely a flu virus. As long as people remain healthy, seek medical attention for serious symptoms like escalating uncontrolled fever, and have no preexisting auto immune diseases recovery is very likely.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms are the same as any other viral infection of the flu which include: body aches, headaches, fever, chills, sore throat, lack of appetite, fatigue, and sometimes fever. With the swine flu, more cases have been reported with diarrhea and vomiting than with the regular flu outbreaks.
How is it spread?
Since it is a virus that reproduces in the respiratory tissue, and it can be spread by droplets sneezed, coughed, or wiped on any surface from an infected person up to two hours after initial contact. The most common way viruses are spread is contact with another person by touching their face, eyes, or other mucus membranes without washing hands first, or being exposed to an infected person’s mucus or droplets by being coughed on or touching a surface that has recently come into contact with respiratory cells/mucus. Considering this influenza virus replicates and lives in the respiratory tissue, its almost impossible to get infected from eating pork. So keep enjoying your pork chops and bacon, just try to stay away from sneezing pigs!
What are the treatment options?
There is one treatment that the Center for Disease Control recommends and that is Tamiflu or Relenza since those anti viral medicines seem to be the most effective in fighting the infection of Swine Flu. They actually stop the replication of infected cells, and seem to be highly effective, but are very expensive, rare, and have a few side effects of their own. These medications are the only available options as far as treatments, but offer no cure considering the viruses from the US and Mexico that have been isolated and tested are proving to be resistant to the other 2 options of Amantadine and Rimantadine. These anti viral drugs work the best when taken as soon as symptoms start, and can lessen the severity of the symptoms along with preventing some serious complications associated with the virus. However some of the ingredients included in the vaccines can often contain mercury as a preservative, which is believed in some cases to have caused Guillain-Barre syndrome, which is ascending numbness caused by the body attacking the nervous system as an auto immune response. So weigh your options carefully when choosing treatment options, and be aware of the risks by doing your own research.
The basic prevention methods are the same for any other flu or viral infection:
-Washing hands thoroughly with soap and water.
-Not touching your face without washing your hands.
-Covering your mouth with your hand if you cough or sneeze.
-Eating properly and staying hydrated with fluids
-Cleaning any public surface with bleach that may come into contact with the virus
Other pandemics that didn’t end the world:
1918 – There was a preceding occurrence of a swine flu pandemic known as “Spanish Flu” or “La Grippe” which killed about 20 to 40 million people.
1957 – H2N2 ‘Asian flu’ virus,
1968 – The H3N2 ‘Hong Kong flu’ virus
1977 – The H1N1 ‘Russian flu’ virus re-emerged after initial outbreak in 1950’s.
2002 – Sars – caused total deaths worldwide 774
2006 – bird flu total deaths worldwide 257
Here is a map that lets you track the virus with the most updated cases and details of where the swine flu is spreading.
With the estimated 20 million people that live in Mexico City, only 160 deaths were reported as infected with swine flu, and only 48 were actually confirmed with the rest suspected. The death toll in Mexico is comparably higher than that of the United States possibly because of the poverty preventing access to medical attention, lack of knowledge about preventing infection, close living conditions, and unavailability of affordable health care. The United States, however, is reporting 2,532 cases as infected with only about 3 deaths so far. This episode is hardly worth the panic that the media is trying to cause, and after the recent crash in the housing market it seems like they needed a sensational story to promote the public into a panic again.
Considering about 36,000 people in the United States alone die from flu complications (which includes the elderly, children, and the immune deficient) each year, this “pandemic” is hardly worth the media frenzy that it is erupting. Most of the deaths reported aren’t the result of the flu virus alone, but instead the complications that arise from infection of the virus such as bacterial pneumonia, other accompanying bacteria, or a similar viral infection. None of the outbreaks are abnormal in number of infections reported, severity of symptoms, or deaths, but are simply promoted hysterically by the media to raise attention to the latest headlines and garner more sales. Even the Center for Disease control reports more deaths from this virus and pneumonia at an estimated 40,000 a year, and even those reports are not specifically because of influenza.
It really all boils down to sensationalism to sell papers considering people are still dying of cancer, aids, and tuberculosis which all have higher death rates than the flu, and no one is reading much about them these days. So considering the available ways you could catch an infection and die, its amazing people are getting so caught up in the flu pandemic. Don’t let a regular case of the sniffles send you into a frenzied panic causing you to sequester yourself in your basement fallout shelter in anticipation of the coming Aporkalypse. Chill out people, its just the flu! *cough*