Why We’re Not Panicking Over this Year’s Swine Flu

H1N1, a strain of the swine flu that affects humans, is popping up again in parts of India amid the coronavirus pandemic, but this year’s outbreak doesn’t seem to be as severe as the one we faced back in 2009. However, it affects the body in ways that are similar to COVID-19, which is causing confusion in certain parts of the country.

Scientists have also discovered a new disease in pigs in China, which could spread among humans. For now, these countries seem to have things under control, but we’re keeping our eye on the situation just in case.

Swine Flu on Top of the Coronavirus

H1N1 has a habit of reappearing every year in certain parts of the world, usually during the colder months. It seems to be vulnerable to heat, but India has already seen over 300 cases of the disease and 20 deaths this year alone.

During the 2009 swine flu outbreak, India suffered more than 450 deaths and over 13,000 cases. In total, the disease has killed over 12,000 all over the globe.

This year, the coronavirus has complicated matters on the ground, creating a panic within some communities. For weeks, many residents were flocking to doctors’ offices hoping to get tested for COVID-19, leaving them vulnerable to H1N1.

The disease has even made its way to a Supreme Court Justice, which has only fueled concerns across the country, but health officials say it’s best not to panic.

Not so Severe?

For starters, Indian health officials say around 90% of patients that come down with H1N1 will be treated as outpatients. In some cases, the body can even recover from the disease on its own without medicine. This makes H1N1 much less of a threat than COVID-19, especially as much of India starts to heat up for the summer. However, some patients may still need urgent medical care.

The swine flu has also been around for over ten years. Many people across India and beyond have been vaccinated for the disease, bringing these areas closer to “herd immunity.” Thus, the chances of another global pandemic are slim. The drug used to treat H1N1, Tamiflu, is also readily available over the counter in India.

The disease affects the body much like COVID-19. It can lead to respiratory infection, coughing, and shortness of breath. Older individuals, those with asthma and diabetes, and pregnant women are considered more vulnerable to the disease.

Instead of closing businesses and borders, health officials want the public to practice social distancing, wash their hands often, and practice proper coughing etiquette.

Reports of a New Swine Flu

While India seems to have this year’s swine flu outbreak under control, we’re also keeping our eye on a new disease that just popped up in China. Known as G4, scientists say this new strain of the swine flu descended from the one that caused the pandemic back in 2009.

Researchers in China have been studying various swine flu strains for years. They have collected 30,000 nasal swabs from pigs in slaughterhouses across 10 Chinese provinces from 2011 to 2018. They then conducted a range of experiments on the viruses. Samples were passed to ferrets, which experience symptoms similar to humans.

The disease was considered extremely contagious. It appears to replicate itself quickly when exposed to humans. According to officials, around 10% of local swine workers already have antibodies in their system as well 4.4% of the local population, which means they were likely exposed at some point.

However, it’s still unclear if the virus can jump from human to human. They also found that any immunity to H1N1 does not seem to apply to G4, which could be a recipe for disaster if the virus were to make its way to the public at large.

Both situations may be cause for concern, but they have yet to reach the level of a global pandemic. This is a powerful reminder that novel viruses and influenzas can easily catch us off guard if we’re not careful. We need to continuously track and share information about these diseases to prevent the next outbreak.

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