What is swine flu?
What we refer to as the swine flu is a particular strain of the H1N1 flu virus, hence named because it is believed to have originated from pigs. This particular strain traces back to 1987.

How contagious is H1N1?
H1N1 isn’t any more contagious than other flu strains. Normal seasonal flu viruses infect anywhere from 10% to 40% of the population. When it comes to H1N1, one study found that about 10% of people living with a person infected with H1N1 came down with it themselves. Another found 14% of those who come into contact with an infected person got sick. A retrospective study by the CDC estimated that there were around 60.8 million cases of H1 Nl in the U.S., along with 274,304 hospitalizations and 12,469 deaths.

An infected person typically develops symptoms in about 1.4 days, similar to other influenzas. (Sanders, 2010) What worries specialists is not that it’s particularly contagious but that it is especially nasty for certain subsets of the population.

Can I get swine flu by eating pork?
No. The only way to get it from pig meat would be to eat the raw respiratory track of a pig. Eating pork under typical circumstances will not give it to you.

The dangers of H1N1
The H1N1 virus is unique in that it is especially dangerous to subsets of the population that normally aren’t as affected by the flu. Specifically, it seems to hit healthy children and pregnant women especially hard. A study by the Chicago Department of Public Health & Safety found that children ages 5 to 14 had 14-times the infection rate of adults 60 and older. Pregnant women had a death rate of 6%. (Sternberg, 8-28-2009)

During the Swine Flu outbreak in 2009, children accounted for 8 million infections, 36,000 hospitalizations, and 540 deaths – far more than the numbers killed and hospitalized during a typical flu season. (Sternberg, 11-13-2009)

In a normal flu season, half or more of children who die are 4-years-old or younger. About a third of children who die suffer from neurological disorders. When it comes to the swine flu, of 40 kids in one analysis who died of H1Nl, 81% were 5 or older, and 67% had high risk medical conditions. Ten of 23 children for who test results were available developed bacterial infections on top of their viral infections, a double blow that led to toxic shock and death.