Swine Flu (H1N1 Flu)

What is Swine Flu?

The swine flu, also referred to as H1N1, is an influenza virus that is very contagious. This flu virus originated in pigs, but now it is a common virus that circulates through humans during the flu season every year.

People pass the swine flu to other people when they leave germs on a surface, such as a door handle or a chair, and the germs are transferred to other people when they place their hand on the same surface. When an infected individual sneezes or coughs without covering their mouth, they are also spreading germs to others this way.

What are the Symptoms of the Swine Flu?

Swine flu symptoms are almost identical to those of other types of influenza viruses and individuals will generally have a fever, sore throat, chills, headache, coughing and a runny nose. Fatigue, an aching body, diarrhea and vomiting are also common H1N1 flu symptoms.

Respiratory issues can occur with this illness and cause individuals to develop breathing problems. If the infection lingers, pneumonia is a possibility. Individuals can expect swine flu symptoms to appear within one to four days after being exposed to the virus. The length of time before the flu symptoms begin to clear up is usually one or two weeks after the initial symptoms.

Swine Flu Causes

Swine flu is caused by a kind of influenza virus which typically infects pigs. The 2009 strain of swine flu was determined to be a particular strain called H1N1; however, various strains of swine flu have since surfaced. In spite of the fact that this virus is almost always limited to transmission between pigs, it is usually passed from person to person, not animal to person. Similarly, you cannot catch swine flu from eating properly cooked pork products; you can, however, catch swine flu from someone with the virus, as swine flu is extremely contagious. Although each strain of the virus has a different H and/or N structure, all of the influenza A viruses have a structure which bears some level of similarity to the H1N1 virus.

How is Swine Flu Treated?

Most individuals who have the swine flu do not need medical treatment unless they are susceptible to developing additional health problems by being infected with the virus. If necessary, these individuals will be given an antiviral medication, such as zanamivir and oseltamivir.

Individuals can get relief from their symptoms by getting enough rest and drinking an adequate amount of fluids. To help alleviate painful symptoms, individuals can take store bought pain relievers. Individuals can prevent a flu infection by getting a yearly flu vaccine in the form of a shot or a nasal spray.

Swine Flu Prevention

The most effective method of prevention is a yearly vaccination. Because various strains of the virus surface from time to time, a one-time vaccination isn’t enough to prevent against all strains of the virus. There are other easy, simple ways to guard against catching swine flu. These should be incorporated into one’s daily life and activities, and are helpful for avoiding not only swine flu, but other viruses and illnesses. They include:

  • Washing one’s hands multiple times a day; if soap and water are not available, then carry a container of hand sanitizer
  • Avoiding touching one’s nose, mouth, and eyes throughout the day, because the virus is able to survive on a multitude of surfaces
  • If ill, stay home!
  • When swine flu is in season, do one’s best to avoid large parties where the virus may be easily transmitted.

Although there is not a specific beginning and ending date of flu season – it varies annually – there is a consistent time of the year during which it occurs. Although it is possible to catch the flu any time of the year, in the United States, the flu season typically begins in October and continues into May. The most common time to catch the flu is in January.

Last Reviewed:
October 09, 2016
Last Updated:
November 30, 2017