What Is H1N1 (Swine Flu)?

Swine flu information leaflet distributed in Scotland by the postal service. Photo &copy Jeff Mitchell/Getty Images

What Is Swine Flu

Swine flu is an illness that usually infects pigs (swine). It causes a respiratory illness and is very contagious but is rarely fatal. It circulates among pigs throughout the year, but is most common during the late fall and winter, similar to the human flu season.

Why Humans Are Getting H1N1

Typically, humans do not get swine flu. The virus that has affected people since the 2009 - 2010 pandemic seems to have mutated into a combination of swine, avian (bird) and human influenza and has developed the capability of passing from human to human.

It is now known as pandemic H1N1 influenza.


Symptoms of H1N1 are similar to those of the seasonal flu and include:

  • Fever
  • Body aches
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Occasionally vomiting and diarrhea

What to Do If You Get Sick

If you are sick with a fever and cough or a sore throat, you should contact your healthcare provider. He will be able to determine if you need testing for influenza.

If you are sick and feel you are having difficulty breathing, seek medical attention immediately.

Do not go to work, school or travel if you are sick. Wash your hands frequently and cover your cough to reduce the spread of the illness.


H1N1 flu is a virus just like any other strain of flu, but it does appear to respond to the antiviral medications Tamiflu and Relenza. These medications do not cure the illness, but they may shorten the duration, make symptoms less severe or help you avoid it altogether if you are exposed.

Is There a Swine Flu Vaccine?

There was an H1N1 swine flu vaccine that was manufactured and began shipping to locations in the United States in October 2009. Because of the timing of the pandemic, it was not included in the seasonal flu vaccine for the 2009-10 season. It is a separate vaccine but was manufactured in the same way.

It has also been extensively tested and found to be both safe and effective against the H1N1 swine flu virus.

See How Flu Shots Work

Since the 2009 - 10 flu pandemic, the pandemic strain of H1N1 has been included in the seasonal flu vaccine.

Can You Get Swine Flu From Eating Pork

No. You cannot get swine flu from eating pork or pork products. Swine flu is a respiratory virus and is not carried in the meat of animals. Properly cooked pork and pork products are safe to eat.


"Human Swine Influenza Investigation." Swine Flu 26 April 09. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 26 April 09.

"Swine Flu and You." Swine Flu 26 April 09. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 26 April 09.

"Key Facts About Swine Influenza." Swine Flu 24 April 09. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 26 April 09.

"Influenza-like Illness in the United States and Mexico." Epidemic and Pandemic Alert and Response 24 April 09. World Health Organization. 26 April 09.