We have put together some of the frequently asked questions about the 2009 Swine Flu outbreak and have researched and provided answers for these important questions.
The 2009 Mexican Swine Flu is officially called Swine Influenza A (H1N1). Thus far it has spread rapidly to over 24 countries around the world. While the spread of the epidemic appears to be slowing, it has not yet run its course and almost anything is still possible.
Why is the current flu bug being called the Mexican Swine Flu?
This particular combination of four different strains of flu appears to have originated in a hog farming area outside of Mexico City. The mutating virus consists of genetic material from two different strains of pig flu, one strain of avian flu and one strain of human flu. This combination makes it easy for the swine flu viruses to be passed to humans.
Why has the outbreak been more deadly in Mexico than in the USA or other countries?
At this point, doctors really do not know. It could be because of health standards or a certain amount of natural defense built into some people from previous flu vaccinations or exposure to a similar flu virus in the past. It could also be that the virus mutated to a less deadly form when it entered the USA.
Why is this being called a mutating virus?
Flu viruses tend to evolve. This is not necessarily in an orderly or logical fashion, which makes flu virus outbreaks unpredictable. Rather, viruses tend to be very poor at reproducing themselves consistently, which is how new variations or mutations are created. Most mutations simply die out. Some mutations tend to be better at reproducing themselves and each new strain is potentially a variation for which we have little or no defense.
Can people catch the swine flu from eating pork?
According to the CDC, no. Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food. The CDC says that cooked pork and cured ham are safe to eat because the cooking and curing processes kill the virus. If you are going to eat pork, make sure that it is cooked properly with an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Can pigs catch the swine flu from people?
Yes. This has already happened on a hog farm in Canada. The virus was transmitted from a person who had recently visited Mexico. Hog farmers around the world are trying to isolate their herds from anyone who could possibly be infected with the virus. Egypt has slaughtered their entire herd of 300,000 hogs in order to prevent the spread of the disease. The WHO has criticized Egypt and called this an unnecessary overreaction. From what we have read, most pigs and hogs in the USA are vaccinated against annual flu viruses. No outbreaks in USA hog herds have been reported thus far.
Why have people in the prime of their lives died?
Doctors suspect that a medical abnormality is taking place with some victims. The result is that the body’s immune system overreacts and starts destroying healthy tissue. Severe lung tissue damage is a frequent result.
How is this flu outbreak similar to the 1918-1919 flu pandemic?
The reason why scientists and doctors are very concerned about this virus is because of the similarities between the 1918-1919 Flu Pandemic and the current Swine Flu.
- The 1918-1919 Spanish flu pandemic has also been classified as an Influenza A (H1N1) virus.
- It also focused on people in the prime of their lives. Most Mexican casualties were adults aged 25 to 45.
- Death typically came quickly with some victims whose lungs literally dissolved. They basically drowned in their own fluids very similar to pneumonia.
- Much as we are seeing today, the 1918-1919 Spanish flu spread very rapidly around the world. The Spanish Flu Pandemic eventually reached every country in the world.
Does the fact that fewer people are currently dying suggest that the worst is over?
Perhaps. The first wave of the Spanish Flu Pandemic in the spring of 1918 was relatively mild. It was much more severe and started killing large numbers of people when it returned in the fall of 1918. Some doctors and scientists are saying that we could see the same pattern with the 2009 Mexican Swine Flu. By the time the Spanish Flu ran its course, somewhere between 50 million and 100 million people had died.
Are there any medications that are proving effective against the Mexican Swine Flu?
Yes. Two prescription antiviral medications, oseltamivir (brand name Tamiflu) and zanamivir (brand name Relenza), are reported to be effective if taken as a preventative or when as soon as the initial symptoms begin to appear. They are less effective after major symptoms appear. Many governments stockpiled these medications during the Avian Flu threat of 2005. However, there are not enough of these antiviral medications to help everyone if a full blown pandemic hits. It takes six months to produce a batch of Tamiflu. The Bush administration did stockpile 50 million doses of antiviral medications.