Health officials from Lake County Health Department, Florida, have confirmed that an 80-year old woman who lived locally and had visited California died of H1N1 Swine Flu. Since the start of the influenza H1N1 pandemic in 2009, the virus strain that was circulating then has become part of the normal group of strains that typically circulate during the influenza season.

Signs and symptoms of flu include a body temperature above 100o F (37.8o C), sore throat, headache, cough, aches throughout the body, chills, malaise and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea. However, other illnesses have similar symptoms; having them does not necessarily mean it is flu. If you have developed these symptoms, see your doctor.

Medical Executive Director of Lake County Health Department, Dr. Claude Jones, said:

“The most effective precautions we can use to fight illness are getting vaccinated before flu season and practicing good hygiene regimes, Simple precautions may lessen your risk of exposure of the virus or transmission to others.”

Health authorities in the USA advice everyone aged at least six months to get a flu shot. Being vaccinated once a year is the best way to protect yourself during each influenza season. Health experts say the vaccine is safe.

Seasonal flu vaccines have included protection against the 2009 influenza A H1N1 since 2009.

Swine flu, also known as swine influenza is a highly contagious respiratory disease of pigs. It is caused by one of several Influenza A viruses. Between 1% and 4% of pigs that become infected die from the disease. Pigs spread it to other pigs by direct or indirect contact, aerosols, and from asymptomatic infected pigs. Pigs are commonly vaccinated against swine flu in many parts of the world.

H1N1 influenza is the most common subtype of swine flu. Other types include H1N2, H3N1, and H3N2.

The 2009 pandemic was with the H1N1 subtype.

Bird flu (avian flu), as well as human seasonal flu viruses can also infect pigs. The virulent H3N2 subtype is thought to have come from pigs. H3N2 went on to infect human beings.

Pigs can be infected with more than one subtype at the same time. When this occurs, the genes of the various viruses have a chance to mingle, which increases the likelihood of the creation of a new virus, a reassortant virus (contains genes from several sources).

Swine flu normally just infects pigs. It can, however, jump the species barrier and infect human beings.

A virus that came from pigs can cause outbreaks of human infection. Signs and symptoms of swine flu are similar to those of seasonal human influenza. In some cases an infected person may have no symptoms at all, while others might develop complications, such as pneumonia.

Because seasonal human flu and swine flu symptoms are so similar, those infected with swine flu are frequently not detected or diagnosed properly – when it is detected, it is generally by chance through seasonal influenza surveillance. Put simply, unless a doctor is a swine flu expert, they are unlikely to detect it. Consequently, it is hard to say accurately what the human swine flu rate is.

Humans can become infected through contact with infected pigs (common) or contact with infected humans (less common).

Written by Christian Nordqvist