H1N1, H5N1 and seasonal flu: Is it time to panic?

Friday, January 10, 2014
By Paul Martin

Tom Blackwell
January 9, 2014

Influenza has a tendency to either be ignored by Canadians, or cause spasms of sudden panic. With the pendulum swinging toward alarm amid events in Alberta and elsewhere — including the death of a Canadian who was the first person in North America to contract the deadly H5N1 bird flu — the Post offers a primer on the latest news and what’s behind it.

Bird, Swine, H-this, N-that? What are all these flus, anyway?

Influenza is an infectious, respiratory disease, originating in mammals or birds. Seasonal flus can be caused by various different strains of the virus. This year, the predominant one in Canada seems to be H1N1, a swine flu that emerged in 2009, becoming a global pandemic. Most cases are relatively mild, but it can lead to hospitalization and death. Separately, public-health officials announced Wednesday that an Alberta resident had died from the first case in North America of H5N1, a bird flu that had been seen only in Asia and the Middle East.

What do the H and N stand for?

They are the types of proteins found on the surface of the virus, H for hemagglutinin and N for neuraminidase. There are 17 H subtypes and 10 N subtypes for influenza A.

How did H5N1 wind up here?

The Rest…HERE

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