H1N1 Flu and Seasonal Flu: Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

Learn more about H1N1 (swine flu) and seasonal flu, including how they’re spread, who’s most vulnerable to these flu viruses, and what we know about natural and other remedies.

| September 11, 2009

  • Box of tissue
    Coughing into a tissue or into your elbow can help prevent the spread of flu viruses.

  • Box of tissue

As winter approaches each year we brace for flu season. This year brings an extra complication: the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu. In June, the World Health Organization declared H1N1 a pandemic. Since then, the media has brimmed with H1N1 stories, governments have stockpiled Tamiflu, flu vaccines have been developed, temperature sensors have been installed in Asian airports, and gallons of hand sanitizer have been dispensed. 

While the concerns are justified, we have always been vulnerable to various forms of the flu (influenza) virus. Flu viruses continually undergo genetic modification, presenting our immune systems with new challenges each season. To help you make sense of what’s in the news and plan your own best course of action, here’s a quick look at what you need to know about H1N1 and seasonal flu, and how to stay healthy.

H1N1 and Factory Farms                                   

Big changes can happen when influenza viruses jump species. Birds, humans and pigs each have their own viruses that circulate among their populations. Pigs, however, can become infected with avian, swine and human viruses. Viruses can trade genes, potentially creating a novel virus capable of infecting humans, such as H1N1. Some authorities have tied industrial-scale hog farms — where animals are crowded together — with the origin and spread of the H1N1 virus.

How Flu Viruses Spread

Influenza viruses are very contagious. Sneezes and coughs propel the viral droplets into the air, and an infected person begins shedding viruses a day before symptoms strike, thus thwarting quarantines from being a completely effective tactic. These viruses can survive on inanimate objects for two to eight hours. You touch that object (a borrowed pen, a shopping cart), then rub your eye, nose or lips — and presto, inoculation.

Recognizing Flu Symptoms

One to three days after exposure, flu symptoms develop: fatigue, fever, body aches, headache, sore throat, cough, and even vomiting or diarrhea. Children may also develop middle ear infections. People with respiratory ailments, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, are especially vulnerable to complications such as pneumonia. 

Who Gets the Flu?

Whereas the seasonal flu or influenza viruses take a greater toll on the very young and the very old, the H1N1 virus (swine flu) has so far proved most dangerous to children and young adults.  So far, most of the deaths have been of people with other significant health problems, and the vast majority of the million or so H1N1 flu cases have been mild, on par with seasonal influenza. 

Vaccines for Seasonal Flu and H1N1

The vaccine for this season’s expected influenza viruses, though recommended to protect against these viruses, doesn’t work against the H1N1 virus. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) anticipates a vaccine against the novel H1N1 will be available this fall. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has prioritized the H1N1 vaccine for groups at higher risk of complications: people who work in the health care industry, live with or care for babies younger than 6 months old, are pregnant, are between the age of 6 months to 24 years old, or are 25 through 64 years old with chronic illnesses or immune dysfunction. 

11/13/2009 8:32:47 AM

I read a quantified study on PubMed this week where elderberry (sambucus nigra) was shown to inactivate H1N1 in vitro. My family has never had a flu shot - despite on immune deficient member - and never had the flu. We are taking two doses of homemade elderberry tincture (using sambucus nigra but I do believe sambucus canadensis would work the same way) twice per day in hopes of preventing this. In the end, none of us knows what will result from our choices - but at least we all investigate all our options before filing into line like drones.

10/28/2009 8:36:27 AM

Vaccines work! Currently at my children's grammer school, more than 75% are out with the flu. My kids remain healthy because they got vaccinated earlier this fall. When I was a kid (back in the 60s/70s)they would line us up in the gym and we would all get whatever shot was needed. Mass vaccinations ended small pox and mumps for generations. When was the last time anyone broke out with small pox? Mumps is pretty rare too. Unlike me, my kids have never even gotten chicken pox! So, please everybody, end the mass hysteria about vaccines. Medicine is good. The Feds are NOT out to experiment on you or anything like that. Let's leave those scenarios to Sci Fi movies where they belong. Other good ways of staying healthy are DON'T BE FAT, seriously being fat is not good. Eat more organic food and less junk/fast/convenience food. Don't smoke or drink. Those tips alone will improve your health, your disposition and your appearance.

9/17/2009 5:29:18 AM

mother earth news has been successfully retrieving information for organic gardens it would be better if it provides information for ornamental gardens.


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