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Eight Surprising Facts About Swine Flu

From how the virus got its name to researchers' deepest fears about its potential, here are eight things we bet you haven't heard about H1N1.


5 Out with the old flu, in with the new

Soon, the 2009 H1N1 flu will be just another seasonal flu bug. It's expected to replace the seasonal H1N1 flu, which might (again) become extinct. When enough people become immune to H1N1 swine flu, flu cases will again become rare in spring and summer months. The pandemic will be over, but H1N1 flu likely will stick around as a seasonal flu bug. This year's seasonal flu vaccine for the Southern Hemisphere will contain the 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine -- but will not carry the old seasonal H1N1 vaccine.

6 The flu talks turkey (and quail and ferret)

As we now know too well, pigs can transmit flu to -- and catch flu from -- people. But they're not the only animals that do so. While water fowl carry all kinds of flu bugs, they only rarely transmit them to humans. That doesn't go for turkeys and quail. Both can easily transmit flu to humans. In the laboratory, flu researchers study ferrets, which readily catch human flu bugs.

7 Pig mystery flu

…was never a big problem for pig farmers -- it was a very mild disease. That changed in 1998, when a human H3N2 flu bug started spreading among swine. Soon swine flu bugs were swapping genes and creating many different new swine flu viruses. Somehow, the 2009 H1N1 flu bug picked up genes from North American pigs -- and from Asian pigs half a world away.

8 Oh yeah, that link between swine flu and pork?

Once again and for the last time, you can't get flu from eating pork.

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Reviewed on July 14, 2010

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