When Pigs Go Bad

By Vincent

Chanchoche by jpcolasso

We all remember last spring when we first heard of the terrifying Swine Flu (H1N1). The news came in March and the media loved it. They spoke of how this could cause death on a scale not seen since the 1918 influenza epidemic. Since then there have been between 8,330 and 17,160 deaths from H1N1 in the U.S., little compared to 20 to 100 million people who died from the 1918 flu epidemic.

CDC Estimates of 2009 H1N1 Cases and Related Hospitalizations and Deaths from April 2009 – January 16, 2010, By Age Group

2009 H1N1 Mid-Level Range* Estimated Range *
0-17 years ~19 million ~13 million to ~27 million
18-64 years ~33 million ~24 million to ~49 million
65 years and older ~5 million ~4 million to ~8 million
Cases Total ~57 million ~41 million to ~84 million
0-17 years ~82,000 ~58,000 to ~120,000
18-64 years ~150,000 ~107,000 to ~221,000
65 years and older ~25,000 ~18,000 to ~37,000
Hospitalizations Total ~257,000 ~183,000 to ~378,000
0-17 years ~1,230 ~880 to ~1,810
18-64 years ~8,980 ~6,390 to ~13, 170
65 years and older ~1,480 ~1,060 to ~2,180
Deaths Total ~11,690 ~8,330 to ~17,160

* Deaths have been rounded to the nearest ten. Hospitalizations have been rounded to the nearest thousand and cases have been rounded to the nearest million. Exact numbers also are available.

Although commonly referred to as Swine Flu, the H1N1 virus is a mix of Swine Flu, Avian Flu, and Human Flu. It is called Swine Flu because early studies showed that it was similar to an influenza in pigs. In fact, it is made from flu genes from pigs in Europe and Asia, birds, and humans. On October 24, 2009 President Obama declared the H1N1 virus a national emergency.

H1N1 affects almost the same population as the seasonal flu; the very old, the very young, the pregnant, and the sick. But H1N1 is more prone to infect teenagers, young adults and pregnant women than is the seasonal flu, possibly because these younger groups do not have immunity as they were not exposed to previous influenza outbreaks. The H1N1 virus spreads the same way as the seasonal flu, through coughing, sneezing, or touching an area with the virus then touching one’s mouth or nose. Once someone is infected with the H1N1 virus he or she is unlikely to contract it again (Although someone with a weak immune system may not be able to become completely immune to the virus).

The symptoms of the H1N1 virus are fever, cough, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and respiratory problems. People can spread the virus from a day before one gets sick to 5-7 days after getting sick.

The CDC says if someone is exhibiting the following symptoms he or she needs medical care immediately.

In children:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

In adults:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting

Dr. Bresee talks of ways to protect yourself including the H1N1 vaccine, hygiene, and antivirals if already sick.

To stay healthy and safe people should follow these everyday guidelines. Cover your nose and your mouth when you sneeze or cough with a tissue, after it is used throw it away. Always wash your hands with soap, water or an alcohol based hand-cleaner. Do not touch your nose, mouth, or eyes. Avoid contact with sick people.

The H1N1 vaccination has probably caused the most controversy around Swine Flu. Many fear that the vaccination is unsafe and worry that it won’t work. Three recent studies have proven that the vaccination is safe and protective. The studies are shown below.

(Greenberg ME, Lai MH, Hartel GF et al. Response to a monovalent 2009 influenza A (H1N1) vaccine. New Engl J of Med, 2009; 361: 2405-13; Zhu FC, Wang H, Fang HH, et al. A novel influenza A (H1N1) vaccine in various age groups. New Engl J of Med, 2009; 361: 2414-23; Clark TW, Pareek M, Hoschler K et al. Trial of 2009 influenza A (H1N1) monovalent MF59-adjuvanted vaccine. New Engl J Med, 2009; 361: 2424-35.).

Getting the swine flu vaccination is the best way to protect yourself. The harm swine flu could cause is much greater than the harm that the vaccine could.

Contrary to popular belief you cannot get swine flu from eating properly prepared pork, but you can get it from contact with pigs infected with H1N1. Pigs do carry the H1N1 virus, even a pig at the Minnesota state fair was infected with the H1N1 virus.

photo by mugley

Will the current H1N1 vaccine be effective against next year’s flu virus?  Are there medications you can take if you already have the H1N1 virus?  Is the threat of the pandemic over, or can the H1N1 virus continue to infect the population?

  • Alex

    Vincent- This is a really interesting article, and it’s great that you wrote on something relevant to readers. You didn’t mention this in your article, but according to MSNBC and other sources, the majority of deaths have only affected those with pre-existing illnesses, most commonly (as the article states) pneumonia.
    Here’s the article: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33088461/ns/health-cold_and_flu/

  • Adam

    Vincent, this post is really interesting and is a post that is extremely current and relevant to today’s readers. I think that the threat of a pandemic is not over and will continue to affect the rest of the population for two reasons. First, people fear the effects of vaccination and do not get it. Second, people are not taking the proper precautions when they are sick. For example, not washing your hands or covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze spreads this virus at rapid speeds. Doctors and other medical professions do not have enough evidence yet to be able to measure the strength or effectiveness or the vaccination from year to year. Also antivirals and the H1N1 vaccine are the only treatments for swine flu.


  • Jack

    It is very common to hear of stories that the media blew up to “epic” proportions, but it is good to see the truth behind these stories. In class we discussed how viruses and bacteria evolve and change faster than most species, as their life spans are short and they reproduce quickly. We need to get yearly flu vaccines to fight against the new changes. If H1N1 changes enough, our current vaccine may not be effective.
    We may not be able to completely cure an H1N1 infected person with medication, but we can use antivirals and antibiotics to treat the symptoms.

  • Geoffrey

    I agree that the threat of a pandemic is not over but it has been significantly lowered. One of the contributing factors to the perpetuation of the swine flu virus is that people are afraid that the side effects of the H1N1 vaccine will be much more serious than the side effects for the seasonal flu vaccine. This assumption is false according to the Center for disease control and prevention (CDC) the affects of the swine flu vaccine are very similar to the affects of the seasonal flu vaccine which include soreness, fever, and aches. Also another contributing factor is the availability of the vaccine according to the American Medical Association (AMA) there are approximately 46 million doses of the vaccine distributed across the U.S. If this is enough, only time will tell.
    I got this information at:

  • Joseph

    Good job Vin. It is a very interesting post because this was a major deal in the scientific community in 2009. The vaccine for the H1N1 virus will be effective against next year’s flu virus and swine flu virus (if any). To try and prevent the virus, you can take some antiviral medications. You can also try the H1N1 vaccination because there has been studies proving that the vaccination works and is useful.
    Also, even though many people were hospitalized and even died, many people did not even seek medical treatment, or even medical attention. I do think that the pandemic is over because we have already faced the consequences, so we will make sure this type of thing doesn’t happen again (meaning we will follow the three steps explained in the video). We also have a safe vaccination and some other medication to treat it. However, I do think cases will come up again over the next few years, but it will never be as serious as the pandemic that occurred in 2009.


  • Michael L.

    Vincent, I have known about much about H1N1 but after reading your post i have fully informed. Since each flu season the strain is different scientist can only predict what strand will come next and prepare a vaccine for it before hand. Though scientist may be sure they have guessed right their is no way to know if they will be right.


  • http://www.cdc.gov/H1N1FLU/VACCINATION/public/vaccination_qa_pub.htm Jong

    Nice post Vincent. The H1N1 in 2010 seems to have decreased much more compared to the impact it had during the 2009. Apparently, the vaccine has worked successfully and so diminished the H1N1 virus. Until now, in 2010 there haven’t been any serious reports about anyone having the H1N1 flu, so it is not expected for it to impact us this year.
    As for the flu vaccine, it was reported to be protective during the 2009 and 2010 for the following viruses
    •A/Brisbane/59/2007(H1N1)-like virus;
    •A/Brisbane/10/2007 (H3N2)-like virus;
    •B/Brisbane 60/2008-like antigens


  • Anna

    Vincent, this is a great article. This article was very interesting because the topic is so relevant to your readers. I haven’t really heard much about the Flu in the news and deaths recently, but I’m sure that people are still getting ill. To answer your question, I believe that it is possible that this pandemic could occur again. However, people are frequently trying to come up with ways to prevent it, like creating new vaccines. I found a New York Times article that is related to this subject. In this article it discusses why some don’t believe the vaccine is necessary. Some people are against vaccines, and they don’t want to put themselves or their family members in harm. Some are concerned about things like, how the Flu vaccines were made, how they could help prevent the spread, if the vaccine really cures, and many other things.

    This is where I found this article:


  • http://saddlebredrescue.com Erin

    Vincent, I love that your post is so relevant to recent events around the world. I did some research on the side effects of the swine flu vaccine and I found out some interesting things. Mile side effects are headache, muscle cramps, vomiting, malaise, chills, and fever. Also there was a very rare but life threatening neurological condition called guillain-barre. That is when the immune system mistakenly attacks the nervous system. It is most common in people of ages 30-50. Symptoms are muscle tingling, weakness and paralysis. It could get worse in 48-72 hours where a person could lose arm and leg function following with arms and head.

  • Rohit

    Great post vincent! I learned more about the H1N1 virus.I found this article that says that Vietnamese scientists have developed an influenza A(H1N1) test kit that diagnoses the disease in four hours. Also the pandemic has reached about 120 countries.


  • Geoffrey

    This is a very interesting post Vincent. Many people believe that the swine flu vaccine has side effects that can actually be deadly to the person who is taking the vaccine. In addition people think that the vaccine has been rushed to the market and thus has not had sufficient testing. Both of these assumptions are false. The AMA has reported 3182 incidences of adverse reactions as a result of the vaccine; 94% of which have been minor and 6% have been life threatening or fatal. Also according to scientists at St. Louis University, significant steps have been made to ensure that the vaccine is safe and most definitely advantageous to have; this was in April 2009. Robert Belshe, a doctor involved in the study, was talking about a universal seasonal flu vaccine but this process that they used in which they took many people in a clinical test to get the universal vaccine mirrors the work that the federal government along with private vaccine providers put in to make sure the vaccine was safe and effective.

    I received this information at:


  • Vincent

    Guillan Barre syndrome is a disease where the host’s immune system attacks its own nerve system. This occurs in only 1 to 2 out of every 100,000 people, regardless of whether they have taken the swine flu vaccination or not. There have been many studies that show that the swine flu vaccination given out in 1976 does not cause this syndrome. Few studies have shown that the vaccination may cause one additional person in every million to develop this syndrome. These studies were few and pertaining to the 1976 vaccination. This swine flu vaccination is more advanced and much safer than the dealing with the danger of the swine flu.


  • Charlot

    Even though there have been thousands of cases of H1N1 flu this past season there can still be a risk for people to get this virus in the near future. I don’t think that this will turn into a pandemic at least not this year. I think that more people would have been sick already. Next year I think that there will be more cases and maybe people will think that their vaccine from this year will work for next year but that is not necessarily true. As Jack stated viruses evolve quickly and because this changes the virus this means that a new vaccine will have to be developed. Everyone will need to get this new vaccine. Even if you do get the H1N1 there are medicines you can take to help you get better. Some of these are antivirals but they are only given out if your case is serious. In an article I read it says that staying healthy and taking care of your body and watching your weight can lower the chances that you’ll get a serious case of H1N1. The article points out that obese people and pregnant women are more likely to respiratory problems, heart problems, and diabetes. These problems increase the chances of getting complications and dying.

  • Ms Baker

    I can’t remember which classes I showed this to, but here’s me getting my H1N1 vaccine!


  • Deanna

    Great post Vincent. From reading your article on H1NI flu I quickly became interested in learning about the H1NI flu and its vaccine. To help you answer some of your questions I did some research and found that the H1NI virus can still continue to infect the population if the number of vaccines being produced aren’t made quickly enough causing the virus to spread. If the people in the laboratories producing these vaccines act quickly we might be able to prevent the disease from spreading in an early stage. It is said by Longini, a biologist who studies viral and bacterial diseases, that the H1N1 virus should be around for a while. It is even said by the Science study that without the production of vaccines, this disease could infect as many as 2.2 billion people all over the world as the year progresses. Even if the productive of the vaccines are being produced too late to stop H1NI from spreading precipitously worldwide, they can help the population by decreasing the level of resistance to the disease. I found all of my information of this site: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1921679,00.html.

  • christian

    Great post Vin. I agree with Jong, about the vaccine working and decreasing the amount of people that are being effected by the H1N1 flu. I also agree with Alex, about people with previous diseases were a primary group that was effected. another highly effected group of people are babies. http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/infantfeeding.htm in this article i found that if mothers breastfeed their babies it gives them nutrients that they need to fight off H1N1 flu.

  • Sam

    After this epidemic broke out there were so many rumors about the virus. I heard that by eating pigs you may be diagnosed with this disease which after reading this post is obviously wrong. Over this summer there was an H1N1 scare at my camp and I had to take a medication everyday, twice a day called Tamiflu. After reading this post I decided to do more research about this medication. Tamiflu can be given to anyone over the age of one. This medication comes in both pill form and liquid form. A serious side affect is intense skin reactions and it is said that you should stop taking this medicine and see your doctor if this happens. The most common side affect with Tamiflu consumers is nausea. The website also advises that you don’t substitute this medication with the actual flu shot. To find more information on Tamiflu or flu symptoms visit this website:

  • Geoffrey

    I agree that Swine flu can continue to infect the population and I also believe that we need to be improving the methods we use to treat swine flu after it has infected a host. This is because of the growing fear that a strain of the H1N1 virus is emerging that could be resistant to Tamiflu, a common drug used to treat flu symptoms. If this strain of flu does in fact emerge the world could have a huge problem on its hands.
    I got this information at:

  • Vincent

    The H1N1 vaccine is an important step in staying heatlthy and not obtaining the swine flu. This vaccine does not protect against the seasonal influenza, one should acquire the seasonal flu vaccine. However the U.S. food and drug administration, FDA, is trying to combine the two for the next flu season. The committee that advised this to the vaccine makers was the vaccines and related biological products advisory committee. The World Health Organization has also advised vaccine makers to do this.


  • Justin

    Great post Vincent! I agree that the media did overplay the so called swine flu endemic. Also I would like the add the fact that many people refused to take the swine flu vaccine due to rumors that you would get the swine flu from it and you would only get worse. Although there is some truth in that you would get swine flu from the vaccine but the amount is so little you only contract minute side effects such as a slight fever and soreness of the arm. The vaccine works because once the vaccine enters the body your brain signals to the rest of the body to make more cells to stop the virus. As of today there has been no reported deaths due to the swine flu vaccine.

  • Lionel

    Vincent this is a good post with a very relavent topic. The swine flu effects many people today in America. As Adam said there is a vaccine for the H1N1 virus. The vaccine has serious side effects. This website answers questions such as, “is the H1N1 vaccine safe?” “Is the H1N1 vaccine too new to trust?” and “Does the H1N1 vaccine contain thimerosal”. This website shows the truth about the H1n1 vaccines and how safe they are.

  • Geoffrey

    There are also other reasons for the possibility for the spread of swine flu. One more would be the fact that some people refuse to take it based on the false fear of the disease. A recent study done in Hong Kong states that 45% of its citizens would accept the vaccine if distributed for free. If the vaccine was not free, the figure drops to 15%; without sufficient evidence of the vaccine’s safety and efficiency the figure drops even loser to 5%. This reflects the general disposition among the public about this vaccine. Because certain people refuse to take the vaccine they are at an increased risk of contracting the disease, because of this H1N1 could lay dormant and then have another sudden outbreak.

    I got this information at:

  • Guy

    That was a very informative post Vincent. I learned what age range most H1N1 cases were found in. I was surprised to learn that least cases of H1N1 were found in people who are ages 65 and older. I thought they had the most because they are very vulnerable to illnesses. When I saw how far away the cases those were in ages 0-17 to 65 and older the deaths were nearly the same. I learned that you should treat H1N1 like any other flue. Also they now have vaccinations available at your local doctor’s office. http://www.cdc.gov/H1N1flu/qa.htm


    justin is right about the media overplaying the swine flu endemic, and geoffrey, the hong kong study information about peoople being afraid receive the vaccine was very interesting. i researched the vaccine process and found that when they expose your body to the h1n1 your body can either have a posotive or negative effect on your body. it can either make you really sick or make you prone to the flu. there is a higher chance of the vaccine working but there is still a chance of it making you ill.

  • Bryan Ramirez

    I hate getting shots they hurt. I guess a lot of people are going to get shoots though because they don’t want to get sick. This virus sucks but I guess we have to deal with it.

  • Shatira

    This was a very interesting article. My mom thought that me getting the H1N1 shot would just make me sick. I guess i’ll have my mom take me to go get the shot even though i really hate needles.:(

  • Zach

    It’s about a year later after the H1N1 outbreak, and there are an extremely low number of reports of the virus. Personally, I have not seen the media talk about this virus for months. Even with the majority of people getting the vaccination for the virus, there have been no deaths from the disease in recent memory. Even though the H1N1 virus is less severe than the regular flu virus, the young and old still need to get vaccinated, just in case. The following is a link to an article explaining why the disease has declined over time.

    Link: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2010/10/18/happened-hn/

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