The stark similarities between swine flu and regular flu, may make you wonder if there exists any difference between them. This article highlights the similarities and differences between the two.
Swine flu, the number one health concern all over the world today, was first detected in the US, in April 2009. The genesis of swine flu 2009, is believed to be from a pig farm in Vera Cruz, Mexico. This strain of influenza A, called H1N1 has crossed over from pigs to the human population.
In October 2009, President Barack Obama declared swine flu as a national emergency. So what’s all this hype about swine flu? Why has it gained such a lot of attention? Isn’t swine flu a type of flu? Although swine flu and regular seasonal flu seem to bear semblance to one another, they are not the same. Let’s understand their differences in detail.
Seasonal flu or regular flu can be caused by myriads of different kinds of viruses. Regular flu is caused by influenza types A, B, or C. Seasonal flu strains appear throughout the world, causing temporary discomfort. Development of new strains is a frequent phenomenon every year, which is why a continuous flow of regular flu vaccines are seen to be introduced into the market. Seasonal flu usually does not pose any long term threats to an average person. As the years go by, the body builds up an immunity to fight regular flu. Most deaths caused by regular flu are attributed to people with exceptionally weak immune systems.
Swine flu is actually a disease mostly observed in pigs, and its transmission from pigs to humans isn’t that common. However, swine flu is not a new disease. In fact, the earliest record of swine flu was in 1918. Thereafter, a pandemic again emerged in 1976, 1988, 1998, and now in 2009. The 2009 swine flu has been caused by a different strain of virus, which shares genes with the virus that causes flu in pigs. Novel H1N1 Influenza A is the official, scientific name for swine flu. The H in H1NI stands for hemagglutinin, while N stands for neuraminidase, and the 1 stands for their antibody type.
Similarities Between Swine Flu and Regular Flu
Mode of Spreading
Seasonal flu spreads from one person to another, through contact. If a person infected with regular flu touches something, the next person coming in contact with that object can get infected by the virus. Similarly, swine flu can also get transmitted from one person to another.
The most common symptoms of regular flu are cough, sore throat, headaches, weakness, chills, fever, muscle pain, and general discomfort. Symptoms like vomiting and nausea are also seen in children, and pneumonia is seen in severe cases of influenza attack. The symptoms of swine flu are also similar, with cough, sore throat, headaches, weakness, chills, fever, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, etc., affecting the infected person.
Swine Flu Vs. Regular Flu
H1N1 is a new strain of virus, to which none of us have been exposed. Moreover, since it originated in pigs, humans do not have any natural immunity towards it. However, vaccines are being prepared in full swing to help us counter this virus. Regular flu, on the other hand, is something we have all grown up with.
Our bodies have developed a natural immunity towards it, and we also have vaccines prepared to counter the severe strains. Vaccines are designed to build up one’s immunity, and the regular flu vaccine comprises a combination of 3 most common human flu viruses. This regular flu shot is not effective against swine flu, which is why getting the specific swine flu vaccine is essential.
Difference Between Swine Flu and Regular Flu Symptoms
Since most of the symptoms of swine flu and regular flu are the same, it’s so difficult to differentiate between the two. However, when it comes to swine flu, the symptoms tend to last longer. The greatest danger is that of the swine flu virus settling in the respiratory system, which can result in serious respiratory problems.
When a comparison is done, seasonal flu is seen to affect the elderly, and those with weak immune systems. Swine flu, on the other hand poses more risk to young adults, below the age of 25. Somehow, it appears that people above the age of 65 are less likely to be infected by the swine flu virus (this doesn’t mean it does not). One reason could be because these people were exposed to similar (though not same) strains of the swine flu virus in the 1900s.
Aggravation of Symptoms
In case of regular flu, the symptoms last for a few days and then subside, however, in case of swine flu, the symptoms aggravate and do not show any signs of alleviating. This means the symptoms show even after 6-7 days of the infection. Swine flu can cause serious respiratory problems in even healthy people.
There is only a thin line of difference between swine flu and regular flu. Although the symptoms of swine flu are more or less similar to those of a regular flu, a swab test helps differentiate between the two. Your health care provider can tell you if you have swine flu or not, so make sure you consult him or her before coming to any conclusions.