H1N1 and why we like bacon

A crazy uncle. I’d bet nearly every family has one. A couple weeks ago I had an entertaining conversation with mine about his consipracy theories on the second gunman on the grassy knoll, the origins of propoganda and how a guy named Edward Bernays convinced North Americans to put bacon & eggs on their breakfast plates. I’ll touch on Edward Bernays more in future articles, but it suffice to say that my crazy uncle got me thinking about how the general public is educated. Which, brings me to H1N1.

I’m not sure if any of you are as confused as I am, so I figured I’d dig up what info I could about this Swine Flu to attempt to find out more factual information about it so that I’m able to avoid getting caught up in just the hysteria and hype.

· The H1N1 flu virus is a new strain of pandemic influenza which is different than the seasonal flu. People have no natural immunity to protect against this virus. The H1N1 flu virus emerged in April 2009 and surveillance of its spread shows that it is affecting more young and healthy people than the regular seasonal flu, which normally affects seniors and young children. People with underlying medical conditions and pregnant women may be at a greater risk for severe illness.
· More research is being done on how long a person can be infectious (be able to spread the virus to others), but it is believed that this period is for one day before the onset of symptoms and continues for approximately seven days after symptoms have started.
· If you get flu-like symptoms and are pregnant or have underlying health problems contact your healthcare provider.
· If you get flu-like symptoms and are otherwise healthy, you should stay home to recover.
· Canada has a National Antiviral Stockpile of 55 million doses of two antiviral drugs – Tamiflu and Relenza. Both are effective in treating H1N1 flu virus. This stockpile is enough for all Canadians who will need and want treatment.

  • Only mild symptoms are experienced by the overwhelming majority of victims,[7] but there are exceptions
  • Annual influenza epidemics are estimated to affect 5–15% of the global population.
  • Although most cases are mild, these epidemics still cause severe illness in 3–5 million people and 250,000–500,000 deaths worldwide.[15]
  • On average 41,400 people die each year in the United States based on data collected between 1979 and 2001.[16]



  • “Our data suggest that severe disease and mortality in the current outbreak is concentrated in relatively healthy adolescents and adults between the ages of 10 and 60 years,”



  • Observational study of 58 critically ill patients with 2009 influenza A(H1N1) at 6 hospitals between March 24 and June 1, 2009
  • During the study period 899 patients with confirmed, probable, or suspected 2009 influenza A(H1N1) were assessed and admitted to study hospitals
  • Critical illness occurred in 58 patients (6.5%) admitted to the hospital (29 confirmed, 14 probable, 15 suspected).
  • Study patients were a median age of 44 (range, 10-83) years (Figure 2), 53% were female, and 2 were health care workers (Table 1). Only 2 children (10 and 14 years) were admitted to study centers with critical illness
  • Among all patients, symptoms included fever in 58 (100%); respiratory complaints (cough, dyspnea, or wheeze) in 57 (98%); generalized weakness in 41 (71%); myalgias in 35 (60%); headache in 33 (57%); and gastrointestinal symptoms of nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea in 18 (30%).
  • After 60 days from the onset of critical illness, 24 of 58 patients… had died
    The mortality rate of 41% for 2009 influenza A(H1N1)–associated critical illness is not dissimilar to that for acute respiratory distress syndrome resulting from other influenza
  • As of August 30, 2009, the World Health Organization reported 254 206 cases of 2009 influenza A(H1N1) and 2837 deaths, for a case-fatality rate of approximately 1%—yet this may well be an overestimate, because testing is no longer being reported in many jurisdictions.2
  • The case-fatality rate in previous influenza pandemics has varied widely, and all such reports may be inaccurate owing to difficulty in assessing the denominator (ie, the total number of cases).35
  • The Spanish flu of 1918 is reported as causing 50 million deaths in 500 million individuals infected (10% case-fatality rate), while the Hong Kong flu of 1968-1969 caused 33 000 deaths among 50 million infected (36 The case-fatality rate of avian influenza A(H5N1) was initially reported to be as high as 60% but is more likely in the range of 14% to 33%.28



  • The Mayo Clinic and Medline listed ways to help ease symptoms, including adequate liquid intake and rest, soup to ease congestion, and over-the-counter drugs to relieve pain.
  • Aspirin was a very effective way to treat fever in adults,[131] although in children and adolescents, aspirin is contraindicated due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome.[132]
  • While over-the-counter drugs relieve symptoms, they do not kill the virus.[133]
  • Most patients were expected to recover without medical attention, although those with pre-existing or underlying medical conditions were more prone to complications.[134]
  • According to the CDC, antiviral drugs could be given to treat those who become severely ill, two of which were recommended for swine flu symptoms: oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza).[135] To be most useful, they were to be given within two days of showing symptoms and “may shorten the illness by a day or so,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
  • The CDC recommended that initial vaccine doses should go to priority groups such as pregnant women, people who live with or care for babies under six months old, children six months to four years old and health-care workers.
  • The CDC does not recommend use of face masks or respirators in non-health care settings, such as schools, workplaces, or public places, with a few exceptions: people who are ill with the virus should consider wearing one when around other people, and people who are at risk for severe illness while caring for someone with the flu.[14]
  • The Mayo Clinic suggested personal measures to avoid seasonal flu infection were applicable to the 2009 pandemic: vaccination when available, thorough and frequent hand-washing, a balanced diet with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein, sufficient sleep, regular exercise, and avoiding crowds.[90] Smoking raises the risk of contracting influenza, as well as producing more severe disease symptoms.[91][92][93][94][95]
  • The leading health agencies stressed that eating properly cooked pork or other food products derived from pigs would not cause flu.[96]

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