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Swine Flu FAQ

Answers to your questions about swine flu.
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What is swine flu? continued...

That makes it a human flu virus. To distinguish it from flu viruses that infect mainly pigs and from the seasonal influenza A H1N1 viruses that have been in circulation for many years, the CDC calls the virus "2009 H1N1 virus." Other names include "novel H1N1" or nH1N1, "quadruple assortant H1N1," and "2009 pandemic H1N1." 

Many people have at least partial immunity to seasonal H1N1 viruses because they've been infected with or vaccinated against this flu bug. These viruses "drift" genetically, which is why the flu vaccine has to be tweaked from time to time.

But the H1N1 swine flu is not the usual "drift variant" of H1N1. It came to humans from a different line of evolution. That means most people have no natural immunity to H1N1 swine flu. The normal seasonal flu shot does not protect against this new virus.

Some people who may have had seasonal H1N1 flu before 1957 might have a little bit of protective immunity against the new virus. That's because seasonal H1N1 flu strains that circulated before 1957 (and which were replaced by the 1957 pandemic flu bug) were genetically closer to the 2009 H1N1 swine flu. This protection is not complete. While relatively few elderly people have had H1N1 swine flu, many of those who did get the disease became severely ill.

What are swine flu symptoms?

Symptoms of H1N1 swine flu are like regular flu symptoms and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Many people with swine flu have had diarrhea and vomiting. But these symptoms can also be caused by many other conditions. That means that you and your doctor can't know, just based on your symptoms, if you've got swine flu. Health care professionals may offer a rapid flu test, although a negative result doesn't mean you don't have the flu. The accuracy of the test depends on the quality of the manufacturer’s test, the sample collection method, and how much virus a person is shedding at the time of testing.

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