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H1N1: Seasonal Human Influenza, Not Swine Flu

World Health Organization says stop calling it the swine flu, H1N1 is now just a seasonal human influenza virus.

Patch photo archive
Patch photo archive

Although the annual flu virus has taken several bay area lives so far this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) says pigs are no longer to blame. The H1N1 influenza that originally jumped from pigs to humans, causing the2009 Swine Flu pandemic, is now just like any other annual human flu strain.

“The H1N1 virus, which caused the influenza pandemic in 2009 was originally an influenza virus which had a combination of avian, swine and human influenza genes,” saysWHO Communications Coordinator, Gregory Härtl, “these three influenza viruses met and mixed up elements (genes) of themselves in pigs, a species which is considered a mixing bowl for influenza viruses, and created a new virus, the new type of H1N1.”

Härtl says this new H1N1 virus is believed to have jumped from pigs to humans sometime in 2008 or early in 2009, stating, "At this point, it would have been somewhat correct to call the 2009 H1N1 pandemic virus a swine flu virus."

“However, now that the virus achieved transmissibility from human to human, and moved thus among people around the world,” he explained, “pigs are no longer involved in the transmission of the virus, so we could no longer speak of a swine flu virus. The pandemic H1N1 virus had become a human influenza virus.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services,  WHO announced that the world is in a post-pandemic period as of August 2010, however, H1N1 is a currently circulating strain and is included in the seasonal flu vaccine. They also note, that although the strain still circulates in pigs, you cannot get it by eating properly handled and cooked pork or pork products. 

The CDC reports, the seasonal influenza, commonly called “the flu,” is caused by influenza viruses, which infect the respiratory tract (i.e., the nose, throat, lungs). Unlike many other viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, the flu can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications in many people.

In the United States, an average of 5-20 percent of the population gets the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from seasonal flu-related complications. Flu seasons are unpredictable and can be severe.

Read more about flu symptoms, where to get a flu shot locally and more information about Bay Area influenza deaths.

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