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Here's why you shouldn't worry about swine flu

One case was reported in Northern Ireland yesterday, but you could have contracted it yourself in recent months without realising. Here’s how.

SWINE FLU MADE headlines in 2009 when a strain of the disease caused a worldwide pandemic, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) classifying it as a Class 6 threat – the highest there is.

However, although as serious as other influenza, it is now a ‘seasonal flu’. Cases do crop up, but they are not a cause for alarm.

More than 14,000 people died during the pandemic spread to countries around the world, but by summer of the following year, the number of cases began to peter off.

“Post-pandemic period”

On the 10 August 2010, the Director-General of WHO Margaret Chan announced that it had entered it’s “post-pandemic period”.

“As we enter the post-pandemic period, this does not mean that the H1N1 virus has gone away, she said, “Based on experience with past pandemics, we expect the H1N1 virus to take on the behaviour of a seasonal influenza virus and continue to circulate for some years to come.”

The threat of a severe worldwide pandemic was over, but as Chan noted, it will still circulate. Just yesterday, a boy in Northern Ireland was diagnosed with this strain of flu, and was transferred to Glasgow for treatment.

However, that doesn’t mean it is of any cause for concern. We are coming into the usual time when flu will start to appear.

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(Image Credit: HSPC)

In response to queries from TheJournal.ie, the HSE explained that  swine flu, or H1N1, has “the same symptoms as the other circulating strains of influenza”.

“Seasonal flu is a serious illness, particularly for those in at risk groups, and that is why the HSE provides a seasonal flu vaccine free of charge each year to those in at risk groups. ”

“The seasonal flu vaccine contains the H1N1 strain.  It is not too late for those in at risk groups to receive the vaccine for this flu season.”

New strains

While this flu is out there, and is a serious as any other flu, the danger arises from when a new strain develops. Swine flu can refer to a number of variants of flu, but all have been around before.

When a new strain emerges it is not possible initially to know how severe it might be, the population will not have been exposed to it previously, and there is no vaccine to protect against it until one is developed”, a spokesperson explained. ” This is known as pandemic flu.

If you get vaccinated against flu, you will also be vaccinated against ‘swine flu’.

The H1N1 strain has been included in the seasonal flu vaccine since the 2009 pandemic.

Although that has been suggested in recent weeks, there has no human-to-human transmission.

Northern Ireland: Boy diagnosed with swine flu >

Spain: Swine flu kills elderly man >

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Nicky Ryan

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