Well, in fact, it never really went away. Swine flu, otherwise known as the H1N1 virus, has been circulating the globe ever since the pandemic of 2009-2010. Back then, it claimed more than 18,000 lives worldwide. This year, it appears to be making a comeback across many regions in Eastern Europe.
First of all, let’s be clear on what swine flu is. According to NHS, swine flu is the popular name for influenza caused by a relatively new strain of influenza virus, A/H1N1. It was given this name because it is similar to a form of the virus seen in pigs. Most common symptoms include: a sudden temperature above 38C; muscle or joint pain,a headache, a runny or blocked nose, and feeling tired.
H1N1 is now considered to be one of the seasonal flu viruses that circulate each year – but the fear surrounding the 2009 pandemic is still associated with it. Generally, this type of flu is no more dangerous than others that strike during winter.
However, it can be harmful and even deadly to those with already weakened immune systems, such as pregnant women, elderly people (over 65), those with long term health conditions or the obese. Dr Richard Pebody, the head of surveillance at Public Health England, wrote on their website: “For most people influenza infection is just a nasty experience, but for some it can lead to illnesses that are more serious, including bronchitis and secondary bacterial pneumonia, which can be life threatening”.
As for the current situation in Europe, back in January, Ukraine’s health minister declared a flu epidemic after 83 people died since late 2015. Almost 85 percent of the fatal cases were blamed on H1N1. In Russia, Moscow and St. Petersburg have both declared city-wide epidemics, after more than 50 cases of people who have died from swine flu in the past month were reported. Armenia has also faced a number of 18 flu-related deaths since the beginning of 2016.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that there’s no danger of a new pandemic. However, it is important to note that compared to Western countries, the health care systems in former Soviet republics are largely underdeveloped. Because of this, poor prevention techniques get to play a huge role in flu deaths.