What is swine flu?

Updated 19 March 2010

Why worry, seasonal kills 36,000 people a year, swine flu is nothing compared to that?

It doesn’t. 36,000 people do not die yearly from seasonal influenza. According to lungusa.org, with historical data directly from CDC, there is an average of about 1,300 deaths from seasonal influenza yearly. The number of deaths from novel H1N1 in the United States exceeds the number of seasonal flu deaths already.

The CDC uses indirect modelling methods to estimate the number of deaths associated with influenza. Thus the much publicised figure of 36,000 is not an estimate of yearly flu deaths, as widely reported in both the lay and scientific press, but an estimate – generated by a model – of flu-associated death, he says.[1][2]

What is swine flu?

“Swine influenza (also called swine flu, hog flu, and pig flu) is an infection of a host animal by any one of several specific types of microscopic organisms called “swine influenza virus”. In 2009 the media labeled as “swine flu” flu caused by 2009′s new strain of swine-origin A/H1N1 pandemic virus just as it had earlier dubbed as “avian flu” flu caused by the recent Asian-linage HPAI (High Pathogenic Avian Influenza) H5N1 strain that is still endemic in many wild bird species in several countries. The 2009 swine flu outbreak in humans is due to a new strain of influenza A virus subtype H1N1 that contains genes closely related to swine influenza.

Who’s dying?

The young and healthy, the pregnant, the children, the teenagers, the essential worker ages.

What else?

DO NOT USE LACK OF FEVER TO CLEAR A PERSON OF INFECTED STATUS. HALF OF INFECTED DO NOT PRESENT WITH ANY FEVER. Rapid tests for influenza may also turn up negative while the person is still infected. Manufacturers of these tests have said that they may or may not detect novel H1N1 and may have up to a 40-90% false negative rate.
Swine flu/H1N1 can be spread before symptoms start and several days to a week or more after symptoms end.

What is this about kids and swine flu?

On average kids are getting hospitalised and placed in ICUs much more often than any other age range (kids/teenagers/young adults). This does not happen during seasonal flu. Seasonal flu pretty much only kills the very young and very old. Swine flu, so far, the majority of deaths have been in teenagers or middle-aged people.

There have been many reports of healthy kids with no conditions dying in one or two days from this.

Is swine flu deadlier than normal flu?

Yes. In some countries, CFRs may be up to 3%+

How is swine flu spread?

The same way as regular seasonal flu. However, much more people exposed to swine flu will go on to develop it compared to seasonal flu because there is zero immunity to swine flu present. Most people have some kind of little immunity to seasonal flu.

Should the very young and the very old be worried?

Right now some places are still saying that under 2 years old and over 65 are the important ages to get healthcare immediately – this is not true. The ages most being hit, most dying, most hospitalised is 2-49, typically young adults and school children now that the school year has begun in the Northern hemisphere.

What are some possible problems in the future?

  • H5N1 avian flu: Swine flu has moved into Egypt and other countries that have avian flu. Avian flu kills almost every person it infects. Scientists are worried about these two combining and hitting a middle ground in fatality ratios.
  • H1N1 seasonal flu – Northern Hemisphere: Flu season has ended in the Southern Hemisphere. However, it’s starting to be active in the Northern Hemisphere. Seasonal flu worldwide is resistant to Tamiflu, whereas swine flu is susceptible to Tamiflu. Both of these viruses are H1N1, which means drug resistance could be passed along to novel H1N1 influenza.

Why is the United States no longer testing for swine flu in healthy people?

This is partly because of this:

  • Lack of resources: The RT-PCR specific test for swine influenza is more time consuming and takes much longer than a rapid test (which can’t tell if it’s swine flu specifically)
  • No seasonal flu: There is NO seasonal flu in the United States. 99.9%+ of all cases of flu are novel H1N1. There is very little to zero seasonal influenza in the Untied States right now.

Seasonal flu in the Northern Hemisphere?

As demonstrated in the Southern Hemisphere (SA, Australia, etc.), seasonal flu is typically displaced by novel H1N1 within weeks if not less – almost all flu will become novel H1N1 rapidly. Most experts expect the same thing to happen in the Northern Hemisphere.

It’s 2010 and it’s gone now. Why worry?

It is not gone – it has lowered temporarily and can return in full force or worse at any time. In some places, cases are starting to rise. This year’s flu season may be completely different.

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  1. #1 by ckravi on August 11th, 2009

    Please update as to which country has the maximum rate of spreading/contacting this H1N1 in the world esp Malaysia and India?
    Thank you

  2. #2 by Eutychus on October 21st, 2009

    Nice summary. The following needs to be updated though…
    “H1N1 seasonal flu – Southern Hemisphere: Flu season has ended in the Northern Hemisphere. However, it’s starting to be active in the Southern Hemisphere.”

  3. #3 by OniNeko on December 28th, 2009

    As of 20 December 2009, worldwide more than 208 countries and overseas territories or communities have reported laboratory confirmed cases of pandemic influenza H1N1 2009, including at least 11516 deaths.

    The reported number of fatal cases is an under representation of the actual numbers as many deaths are never tested or recognized as influenza related.


    WHO Regional Office for Africa (AFRO)

    WHO Regional Office for the Americas (AMRO)
    At least 6670

    WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO)

    WHO Regional Office for Europe (EURO)
    At least 2045

    WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia (SEARO)

    WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific (WPRO)

    At least 11516

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