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Swine Flu FAQ

Answers to your questions about swine flu.

How severe is swine flu? continued...

It's impossible to know whether the virus will become more deadly. Scientists are watching closely to see which way the new swine flu virus is heading -- but health experts warn that flu viruses are notoriously hard to predict.

But there's a lot of planning you can do. CDC officials predict that just about every U.S. community will have H1N1 swine flu cases. It's possible some schools in your community may temporarily close, or even that major gatherings may be canceled. So make contingency plans just in case you are affected. For more information on preparedness planning, see the U.S. government's pandemicflu.gov web site.

Have there been previous swine flu oubtreaks?

Yes, but never before has there been a swine flu pandemic. Pigs can be infected with a wide range of flu viruses. Once in a while, a person in close contact with pigs becomes infected. It's not possible to get swine flu from eating pork.

In 1976, there was an outbreak of swine-origin flu among military recruits in Ft. Dix, N.J. Some of these young men died. Health experts on the lookout for the next flu pandemic thought the infection would spread further and launched a vaccination campaign.  As it turned out, the virus never spread and disappeared on its own. Because the vaccine carried a small increased risk of severe neurological problems -- and because there was no benefit in a vaccine for a pandemic that never happened -- the vaccination campaign was stopped.

I was vaccinated against the 1976 swine flu virus. Am I still protected?

Probably not. The new swine flu virus is different from the 1976 virus. And it's not clear whether a vaccine given more than 30 years ago would still be effective. 

How many people have swine flu?

That's no longer possible to answer definitively, because so many people have become infected that most nations can no longer test everyone suspected of having H1N1 swine flu. The CDC counts hospitalizations and deaths, but even these figures underestimate the true extent of the pandemic. Instead of misleading case counts, the CDC has estimated the number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths:

  • The CDC estimates that between 43 million and 89 million cases of 2009 H1N1 occurred between April 2009 and April 10, 2010. The mid-level in this range is about 61 million people infected with 2009 H1N1.
  • The CDC estimates that between 195,000 and 403,000 H1N1-related hospitalizations occurred between April 2009 and April 10, 2010. The mid-level in this range is about 274,000 2009 H1N1-related hospitalizations.
  • The CDC estimates that between about 8,870 and 18,300 2009 H1N1-related deaths occurred between April 2009 and April 10, 2010. The mid-level in this range is about 12,470 2009 H1N1-related deaths.

 

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