A few weeks ago 40 million vaccinations against Swine flu expired, and by the year's end 70 million will have expired, around 40% of the total reserved for public use and about a half billion gone to atrophy.... I remember about a year ago when all of the panic began surrounding the swine flu, it's funny looking back given how few people even remember that time. It largely was a mass panic attack on the part of the American public... which seems to be our natural state.
I'll admit it, I caved into the pressure and got the vaccine at the urging of loved ones. I never considered the swine flu to be a very big issue however. Some can chalk it up to me being a college kid and thinking myself invincible, but really I based it off the fact that it typically only killed people with compromised immune systems and otherwise was the plain old flu (which, for the record, kills about 500,000 thousand people a year, about 40,000 of which are in the US. as opposed to swine flu where 17,700 deaths)
I was never terribly worried and, not to pat myself on the back, but it appears that my feelings were justified given a Spanish Flu study. For those who don't know, the Spanish flu of 1918 infected 40 million people and had a 50% mortality rate, killing 20 million, making it one of the worst epidemics in history far outweighing the death toll of WWI and WWII combined. The Spanish flu was in fact a version of the H1N1 avian flu (which is communicable to both pigs and humans). So why then did the current strain not do what our paranoid fears promise? Two reasons, a massive amount of vaccine was made and given out, more than was needed in fact. The other reason is by virtue of being a virus, the flu's genetic code (And it's deadliness to humans) is in a constant state of flux, and is different from one generation to the next. Viruses can absorb new DNA and become a different strain very easily, which is why the normal flu even today is a potentially deadly circumstance, it is the same reason why someone can get the flu multiple times.
However, specific genes can give a person a hint as to how severe a virus can be. Sequencing the virus' RNA, it was found what gene's it held in common with other comparable flu's. Two genes specifically show this, H1 gene(the virus is technically known as A(H1N1)resembles the H1 gene of strains that reach their victims’ upper respiratory tracts, but not their lungs. When flu enters the lungs, chemical fallout from a body’s immune response can cause severe damage. H1 gene — the virus is technically known as A(H1N1) — resembles the H1 gene of strains that reach their victims’ upper respiratory tracts, but not their lungs. When flu enters the lungs, chemical fallout from a body’s immune response can cause severe damage. Another gene, NS1, belongs to a family of genes that seem to modulate immune response. The swine flu version resembles other NS1 variants that trigger a mild reaction. These two genes had they shared more in common with more virulent counterparts would have made the swine flu a potential epidemic maker...luckily for all of us this was not the case
Now the question. Where did the swine flu go? Surely we destroyed it? Wrong. The swine flu, following it's erstwhile name, has returned to it's native land of pork, where it can combine with other flu strains substantially more deadly, such as the normal human flu and the avian H5N1 flu.
Swine flu has actually been a part of the American experience, with breakouts occurring in 1918, 1976, 1988, 1998, 2007 in the Philippines and of course 2009. Ultimately, viruses such as swine flu will become more and more common as the world's population explodes, offering fertile grounds for these sorts of disease. With such high concentrations of people, we sit on a time bomb waiting to go off.
I still love pork though
Thanks for reading,