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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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H1N1 Flu Virus (Swine Flu)

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H1N1 flu is also known as swine flu. It's called swine flu because in the past, the people who caught it had direct contact with pigs. That changed several years ago, when a new virus emerged that spread among people who hadn't been near pigs.

In 2009, H1N1 was spreading fast around the world, so the World Health Organization called it a pandemic. Since then, people have continued to get sick from swine flu, but not as many.

While swine flu isn't as scary as it seemed a few years ago, it's still important to protect yourself from getting it. Like seasonal flu, it can cause more serious health problems for some people. The best bet is to get a flu vaccine, or flu shot, every year. Swine flu is one of the viruses included in the vaccine.

How Do You Catch It?

The same way as the seasonal flu. When people who have it cough or sneeze, they spray tiny drops of the virus into the air. If you come in contact with these drops, touch a surface (like a doorknob or sink) where the drops landed, or touch something an infected person has recently touched, you can catch H1N1 swine flu.

People who have it can spread it one day before they have any symptoms and as many as 7 days after they get sick. Kids can be contagious for as long as 10 days.

Despite the name, you can't catch swine flu from eating bacon, ham, or any other pork product.

Swine Flu Symptoms

These, too, are pretty much the same as seasonal flu. They can include:

Like the regular flu, swine flu can lead to more serious problems including pneumonia, a lung infection, and other breathing problems. And it can make an illness like diabetes or asthma worse. If you have symptoms like shortness of breath, severe vomiting, pain in your belly or sides, dizziness, or confusion, call your doctor or 911 right away.

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