Ignorance is not an excuse
What is the flu anyways?
According to Health Canada, the seasonal flu is a respiratory illness that affects the nose, throat and lungs.
The flu is caused when the influenza virus enters your body and finds its way to your respiratory tract. Once there, the virus binds to the surface of your cells and begins to replicate. The tissue in your respiratory tract then becomes inflamed and swollen. The first symptoms begin shortly after this as the virus makes its way into your bloodstream. The virus continues to replicate for several days until your body’s immune system begins to fight it off.
The H1N1 flu virus – also known as human swine influenza – is also a respiratory illness that affects the nose, throat and lungs. This virus usually affects pigs, but has been transferred to humans. Because it is new to humans, we have no immunity to it.
How does H1N1 differ from the seasonal flu? Is it more severe?
“The difference between the two might be difficult for a lot of people to understand,” said Penelope Ironstone-Catterall, a professor of communications at Laurier who has been researching the history of influenza for the last four years.
“We all have experience with the flu and thus have had similar symptoms to H1N1,” she continued. “It may be a little bit different in that [H1N1] can come with nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. The difference [with H1N1] is the age range of people who are most affected. People who may seem otherwise healthy could suffer serious complications.”
According to Karen Ostrander, manager of Health Services at Laurier, between 3,000 and 4,000 people die annually of the seasonal flu in Canada alone. Generally people with compromised immune systems are most at risk for complications. H1N1 has raised such concern because of its ability to drastically threaten the health of those who do not have compromised immune systems.
How does a viral infection (the flu) differ from a bacterial infection (strep throat)?
While both will make you sick, bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics, whereas viral infections cannot. Furthermore, a virus is significantly smaller than bacteria and requires a living host of some kind to multiply. Bacteria, on the other hand, can exist in almost every environment on the planet.
According to Health Canada, the H1N1 flu virus is just as contagious as the seasonal flu and is spread in precisely the same way. The flu is spread when the germs of an infected person enter the nose, eyes or throat of a healthy person. Germs can be transferred through coughing or sneezing; however, they can also rest on hard surfaces like counters and doorknobs. It is not possible to catch it by eating pork or pork products or through blood transfusions.
Dealing with the virus
It may seem unusual that such a serious virus is best managed through the most simple of actions, but hand washing is the number one means of limiting the spread of the virus. Sneezing and coughing into your sleeve is also very important to stop the spread of germs. If you suspect you have H1N1, avoid contact with others, get plenty of rest and consume clear fluids.