The influenza virus currently called Swine Flu, influenza A (H1N1), is actually an influenza virus that is a combination of a new strain of influenza A virus subtype H1N1 that derives from one strain of human influenza, one strain of avian (bird) influenza, and two separate strains of swine influenza. The origins of this new strain are unknown at this time.
Previous to April 2009 Swine Flu had been limited to pigs aka swine. It is possible for humans to catch true swine flu but it has happened rarely. The human has to be around infected swine on a regular basis. The virus passes from pig to human. There have been different varieties or strains of swine flu through the years. Currently there is a vaccination to prevent swine flu in pigs but not in humans.
Swine flu was first diagnosed in pigs in 1930. Almost 50 years later in 1976, a little over 200 soldiers at Fort Dix in New Jersey, came down with swine flu. From that time until 2005 there were few cases reported, less than one per year. From 2005 through January 2009 there were only 12 cases reported.
The Swine Flu influenza A (H1N1) is different than historic swine flu. In April 2009 the number of reported cases began to rise, causing concern that a serious outbreak of a new swine flu, now called Swine Flu Influenza A (H1N1) might be in its initial stages.
Viruses Are Nasty Creatures
Viruses are structures that only replicate or reproduce themselves within a host cell. Outside a host cell they are dormant. Scientists do not agree on whether viruses should be considered a life form or be classified as biochemical mechanisms. They only “live” for short periods of time outside the host cell if “live” is defined as maintaining the ability to reproduce themselves inside a host cell. Perhaps better terms than live or dead when talking about viruses would be active and de-activated. Viruses are not susceptible to treatment with antibiotics.
Why are viruses so dangerous to the host cells? The virus has a limited amount of DNA information for use in reproducing itself but it doesn’t have all the necessary biological materials. Once it enters the host cell it uses that host’s material to replicate itself thousands of times, destroying the host cell and invading other cells within the host. The viruses can leave the host cell a few at a time called “budding,” or all the viruses can leave at once called “lysis.”
The only purpose of a virus is to replicate itself. It can only replicate itself inside a host cell. As it replicates the host cell is destroyed. One virus can replicate itself thousands of times inside one host cell, thereby setting up the destruction of thousands of other host cells.
Every living organism, plant, animal, or bacteria matter, is susceptible to viruses. The saving grace is that specific viruses can only find the genetic material they need to replicate within specific organisms. To make matters worse there may be a hundred different viruses with the capability to infect one specific organism.
The really bad news is that viruses can evolve and mutate. One virus has the capacity to reproduce itself hundreds of thousands of times. Each reproduction can lead to a small change, or mutation, within the virus. Even if 90% of the reproduced viruses are faulty the remaining 10% are functioning. Some of the mutations may mean they can infect other organisms besides the original host. The influenza virus is notorious for doing exactly that. The avian influenza mutated to be able to infect humans in the early 2000’s. And that brings us to the (H1N1) Swine Flu.
This is not medical advice. If you think you have (N1H1) Swine Flu or any other medical condition, please see your health professional.