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Kristin Hayes, R.N.

How Dangerous is H1N1?

By July 16, 2009

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Apparently, researchers can't make up their minds. A study done at the University of Wisconsin-Madison now shows that the virus that causes Swine Flu (H1N1) is more dangerous than they originally thought. This study was published on the 13th of July and its findings are in stark contrast to a previous study by Harvard University-Massachsetts Institute of Technology Division of Health Sciences and Technology, reported earlier in the month which showed a protein on the surface of the H1N1 virus which supposedly makes it inefficient at attacking receptors inside of the human respiratory tract.

The new study, (the one in Wisconsin), shows that in direct contradiction to regular influenza viruses the H1N1 virus can infect cells deep in the lungs, causing pneumonia and, in some cases, death. “There is a misunderstanding about this virus,” says Yoshihiro Kawaoka, a professor of pathobiological sciences at the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. “People think this pathogen may be similar to seasonal influenza. This study shows that is not the case. There is clear evidence the virus is different than seasonal influenza.”

Kawaoka also says that the mechanism the virus uses to invade the lungs is very similar to other pandemic viruses, particularly the pandemic that occurred in 1918. Research has also found that individuals born prior to 1918 often have antibodies (immunity) to H1N1. The study was performed on several animal species including non-human primates and was reported in Nature magazine.

On a positive note Kawaoka believes that vaccination and treatment with anti-viral drugs such as Tamiflu will still be effective against H1N1 in it's current form. Researchers are still anticipating a possible mutation of the virus in the fall which might make it even more dangerous. Why the difference in the two studies? I haven't a clue. Only God knows what kind of havoc, or not, the H1N1 virus may cause come October.

More about H1N1 (Swine Flu):

Symptoms of H1N1

Do Facemasks Prevent the Spread of H1N1?

Persons Age 5-59 At Most Risk For H1N1

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