Swine flu, H1N1
Swine flu has hit us hard already, but with winter, the worst may be yet to come.
We’re likely to get massive incapacitation and illness.
Still, so far swine flu isn’t a big killer. In the Spring, roughly 800,000 New Yorkers had symptoms of swine flu, but only 54 died of it. The worst fatality rates have been seen in Mexico, which helped spread initial panic, but elsewhere it has been milder.
The bad news
Swine flu is unusually contagious. If you’re living with someone who catches the flu, normally you’d have around a 10-15% chance of catching it. If you’re in close contact with someone who has swine flu, by contrast, you have a 20-30% chance of infection.
Because of this much higher rate of spread, it’s entirely possible that 1/3 of the USA will be infected, and one much quoted White House report says it may be up to 1/2.
More bad news. Swine flu and the regular seasonal flu are quite different, which looks like it might be a serious problem. It’s entirely possible that come winter we’ll have a normal flu season – and have Swine Flu on top of that.
This is especially serious when you realize that Swine flu tends to infect younger people. So a wider range of people and at higher numbers might catch the flu this winter.
The good news
It’s possible that Swine flu will simply overtake seasonal flu and that we won’t have extremely large numbers of people infected.
Best of all, Swine flu doesn’t seem to be mutating to become more dangerous. From April to late July, for instance, the genetic structure remained mostly constant. And a recent study showed that swine flu doesn’t tend to remix with other influenza strains, meaning less risk of a deadly recombination.
Vaccines to swine flu are very rapidly being made. It has yet to be seen how effective they are, and if they will be ready in time. And because of the incredible time pressure, we’re simply not going to get the safety data we need and typically require for any health related product.
But they are being made, and they may help fight the spread of swine flu.
Leave with this message. Unless you have very strong reasons not to, get the flu vaccine we do have.
We’ll next cover how to recognize if you have swine flu and what to do if you or a loved one has it.
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If this article helped you, I’m happy. Thanks for reading!