Does H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu) Affect Healthy People?

The whole world is now at the risk of getting infected by swine flu, albeit sporadically. So far, in USA, 1 person has been dead and 91 have been infected (as of April 29th; source: CDC). Since it is a new virus/strain, most people will not have immunity to this virus. Many people ask this question: does swine flu affect healthy people?

To understand this, let us learn more about it first. Even though it is named as swine flu, and is called so by most of the media, it is not swine flu, strictly speaking. The main reason is, viruses evolve, and the new version is called a new strain. In this case, the virus causing the damage now, affects humans. It is a mixture of genetic material from swine flu, bird flu and other human flu strains. The naming is very deceptive, and it totally misdirects us as to the genetic makeup of this virus. The proper name suggested is H1N1 virus. Influenza A virus subtype H1N1, also known as A(H1N1) or simply H1N1, is a subtype of influenzavirus A and the most common cause of influenza in humans. Some strains of H1N1 are endemic in humans, including the strain(s) responsible for the 1918 flu pandemic which killed 50-100 million people worldwide.

UPDATE: Department of Health and Human Services have already started referring to it as the H1N1 virus.

UPDATE 2: US Agricultural Secretary has also switched to the term H1N1, concerned that the old term is affecting pork sales.

UPDATE 3: In Israel, the Israeli Deputy Health Minister has been urging to change the name to “Mexican flu” since swine are not kosher. As expected, Mexican ambassador registered a strong protest, and in the latest update, Israel’s foreign ministry informed the public that they have no intention of changing the name.

The question still remains – do healthy people get infected more by H1N1 virus?
The answer, in public interest, is this: whether you are healthy or not, you can be infected by H1N1 virus. If you are healthy, your immune system will make it worse by trying to fight the virus. It makes you susceptible to secondary infections, and this is how many deaths occur.

How can you prevent H1N1 virus from spreading/infecting you?

NOTE: Make sure to keep up to date with the latest information about this virus. The information posted here is current at the time of publication. But, watch for new updates, in case anything changes.

  • Stay healthy.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • Stay home if you get sick. CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
  • Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures.
  • Develop a family emergency plan as a precaution. This should include storing a supply of food, medicines, facemasks, alcohol-based hand rubs and other essential supplies.
    • You can call 1-800-CDC-INFO (free, government, CDC line) for more information.