Influenza From H1N1 Virus Compared to Other Strains
H1N1 and the strains of seasonal flu may appear similar, but are most definitely not. Most impressively, they have different impacts: though a person won’t know if they have regular influenza or H1N1 unless detected by a doctor, it can severely impact unusual segments of the population and is more dangerous than the seasonal flu.
Typically, seasonal influenza infects between 5 and 20 percent of the population and is responsible for about 36,000 deaths each year, but swine influenza is projected to be much worse. It is said to be able to infect between 30 and 50 percent of the population, and cause 30,000 to 90,000 deaths in one year. Unlike normal strains of influenza, that mostly affect senior citizens, influenza from H1N1 targets young adults, pregnant women, teens and children. Children of ages 5 and under are most at-risk of getting swine influenza.
The strains of both seasonal and swine influenza have similar symptoms and are spread like most illnesses. Symptoms include coughing, sneezing, body aches, chills, fatigue, sore throat, headache, runny nose, fever, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. Like with most illnesses, people who suffer from chronic disease are most affected by either strain of influenza. Swine influenza is particularly dangerous to vulnerable people because respiratory problems can occur without a fever after supposed recovery from the flu; the current leading cause of death from H1N1 influenza is respiratory failure. In addition, H1N1 circulates in the same way that seasonal influenza does. Influenza viruses are spread mostly from person-to-person, through coughing or sneezing people with influenza. People may become exposed to the virus from touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes.
The swine influenza has one vaccination, while the seasonal flu vaccination changes to suit the mutating influenza strains every year. The H1N1 influenza is a stronger, slower mutating strain of influenza; it is regarded as a novel illness, or one that most humans have never been infected with before. This is unlike the seasonal flu, which we have all been exposed to in our lives.
The 2009 – 2010 winter will be a closely monitored flu season. In the past, 200,000 or so patients have been hospitalized every year due to seasonal influenza complications, and this season’s highly contagious pandemic of swine influenza may double that figure. The actual timing and severity of H1N1 are currently both unknown, though the peak of flu season has been January or February in the United States, and severity relatively low, in the last century. H1N1 influenza may perpetuate the flu season peak to occur sooner, or last longer than those before. Vaccinations for both seasonal and swine influenza are now available at most drugstores, hospitals and even schools.