The Swine Flu - Basic Facts


The outbreak of the swine flu in Mexico has caused panic in the medical world. But what is the swine flu and how dangerous is it?

The swine flu is a disease of the respiratory system. It is very common among pigs. There are many different kinds of swine flu and the illness can spread throughout the year. It makes pigs ill but hardly kills them. The virus is very active and changes often.

Normally the swine flu does not infect humans, but there have been cases in the past in which people who were in close contact with pigs got the illness. The new outbreak of the swine flu, however, is passed on from person to person through coughing and sneezing.

The World Health Organization says that the current flu is an unknown strain of the H1N1 virus, which causes normal flu in people. Flu viruses can exchange genes with each other and can mutate. Thus, they change and affect different species. The latest version of H1N1 has genetic material that is found in humans, birds and pigs.

The swine flu, as it is spreading at the moment, has the same symptoms as normal flu. Victims suffer from fever, a sore throat, body ache and fatigue. Although people in Mexico have died, most cases, up to now, are not very serious.



But the WHO warns that the situation is dangerous. The cases in Mexico and the US may lead to a global pandemic, which could kill millions of people. The worst pandemic in modern times was the Spanish flu in 1918. It infected about a third of the world’s population and killed 50 million people. In 1968 a virus that originally came from Hong Kong killed a million people worldwide.

In order to fight the virus successfully the flu must be treated early. In Mexico, where over 150 people died, this might not have happened. In contrast to normal flu, the current swine flu affects younger people than older ones. There are drugs that are used to treat the swine flu but they must be given to people before there are infected. Governments around the world are stockpiling the two drugs,Tamilflu and Relenza, so that, in case of emergency, they can give them to the population quickly.

Doctors do not know if a normal flu vaccine can help fight off the flu. Scientists around the world are working on a new vaccine but it takes time to produce enough for the whole population.



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  • affect = have an effect on
  • case = here: disease
  • cause = lead to
  • common = widespread
  • current = existing, present
  • disease =illness
  • drug = medicine
  • exchange = trade
  • fatigue = to be tired
  • flu = a common illness that makes you tired and very weak; you cough and sneeze and sometimes have fever
  • government = people who rule a country
  • illness = disease
  • in case of emergency = when an unexpected and dangerous situation comes up
  • in contrast to = the difference between two things
  • mutate = change
  • originally = at first
  • outbreak = when something bursts out or suddenly happens
  • pandemic = a disease that spreads to people in a big area or all over the world
  • respiratory system = the breathing system in our body
  • scientist = someone who works in science
  • serious = dangerous
  • sore throat = the inner part of your neck is red and infected
  • species = a group of animals or plants that are alike and can produce young animals or plants together
  • spread = to move from one place to another
  • stockpile = to buy things so that you have them when you need them
  • strain = a type of disease
  • suffer = to be ill and have pain
  • throughout = in the whole
  • treat = take care of
  • vaccine = material that has a weak form of the virus; it is used to protect people from a disease
  • victim = here: ill person