More swine flu topics

What is H1N1 virus?

H1N1 flu is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza among pigs. H1N1 flu viruses do not normally infect humans; however, human-to-human spread of H1N1 flu virus is occurring, similar to the spread of regular seasonal flu viruses.

This H1N1 virus was originally referred to as “swine flu” because laboratory testing showed that many of the genes in this new virus were very similar to influenza viruses that normally occur in pigs in North America.

But further study has shown that this new virus is very different from what normally circulates in North American pigs. This H1N1 virus has two genes from flu viruses that normally circulate in pigs in Europe and Asia and avian genes and human genes. Scientists call this a "quadruple reassortant" virus.

The symptoms of this new H1N1 flu virus in people are similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. A large number of people who have been infected with this virus also have reported diarrhea and vomiting. Also, like seasonal flu, severe illnesses and death has occurred as a result of illness associated with this fast spreading virus.

Spread of this H1N1 virus is thought to be happening in the same way that seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing by people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

Why is Swine Flu A/H1N1 so deadly in Mexico but seemingly treatable in other parts of the world?

In Mexico, many patients have experienced rapidly progressive pneumonia, respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Therefore, the experience in Mexico has been markedly different to date. Getting additional information to explain these differences is a high priority for the ongoing investigation.

The most obvious reason for the discrepancy is awareness; health officials and medical professionals in other parts of the world have known what they are looking for and how to fight it. In Mexico, doctors and health officials did not have this luxury.

Doctors in Mexico were slow to realize that they had a disease of epidemic proportions on their hands and have been heavily criticized by citizens for failing to protect the Mexican people as well as populations in other nations. In fact, Mexico continues to be under fire for offering ongoing poor health care to its citizens now that Swine Flu has been identified.

Two weeks after the first known swine flu death, Mexico still hadn't given medicine to the families of the dead. It hadn't determined where the outbreak began or how it spread. And while the government urged anyone who felt sick to go to hospitals, feverish people complained that ambulance workers were scared to pick them up.

A clear picture emerged of a slow and confused response by Mexico to the gathering swine flu epidemic. Despite an annual budget of more than $5 billion, Mexico's health secretary said that his agency hadn't had the resources to visit the families of the dead. That means doctors hadn't begun treatment for the population most exposed to swine flu, and most likely to spread it.

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