What is H1N1?
The ‘H’ stands for hemagglutinin . And ‘N’ for neuraminidase - both proteins on the outer layer of the virus. What makes flu dangerous is that they are master mutators. In this case, there are 16 versions or subtypes of H and 9 of N.
What makes them dangerous?
It is a master mutator and is also famously licentious – infecting birds, pigs, humans and horses at the same time.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that the H1N1 swine flu strain circulating in India was a mutated version that had become more infectious and dangerous.
Antigenic shift and antigenic drift…
The reason flu viruses changes from season to season, sometimes during the course of a single season.
The ‘drift’ is when small changes in the viruses’ genes occur over time and produce a ‘newer’ virus. Sometimes, the body cannot identify this new version and we get sick again
The ‘shift’’ is the more dangerous one- when there is an abrupt, significant change in the viruses, resulting in new H & N proteins. This is what caused the 2009 pandemic
First H1N1 case in India was a 23-year-old man who flew in to Hyderabad from New York. He tested positive for swine flu on May 13, 2009.
No. of cases : By March this year, nearly 30,000 cases and 1,731 deaths were reported, making the current season worse that the 2009 pandemic which claimed 981 lives and infected a little over 27,000 people
Do you need a flu shot?
No. The vaccine is not recommended for general public.
Who needs it get a flu shot?
Special groups such as children under the age of five, pregnant women, elderly and immuno-compromised patients.
People with existing medical conditions like that weaken their immunity- like cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Healthcare workers who work in close contact with patients will also get vaccinated ahead of the flu season.
How long does it take for the vaccine to start working?
About two weeks. The body takes that much time to develop antibodies and provide protection against influenza virus infection.