The 1st outbreak of H1N1, aka the Swine flu, was reported in April 2009 in Mexico, and the disease soon spread to the US.
The virus was 1st discovered in Mexico. Schools shut down, the media was accused of overreacting, and hospitals were swamped with severely ill patients.
The year was Y 2009, and the pandemic was caused by a strain of influenza known as Swine flu, or H1N1. But similarities to the current virus outbreak end there.
COVID-19, the illness caused by a severe acute respiratory syndrome aka SARS coronavirus 2, is much more contagious and many times more deadly. There are no approved treatments or vaccines, leading to lockdowns and quarantines ordered by public health officials worldwide.
This coronavirus appears to cause more severe illness and deaths in older people, scientists are rushing to learn more.
With H1N1, children and young adults were more likely to get sick because older people had built up some immunity through exposure to similar strains of flu that had circulated decades before.
Nearly all who caught H1N1 developed mild to moderate symptoms, but it spooked health officials because of the higher risk for young people and pregnant women.
In perhaps the most important difference between the 2 pandemics of the 21st Century, H1N1 illnesses responded well to anti-viral drugs already used to treat the flu.
People in close contact with someone who caught H1N1 were commonly given the drugs as a precaution, limiting its spread. There is no approved treatment for COVID-19.
The incubation period for H1N1 flu was about 1 day to 1 week, meaning people learned more quickly that they might be infected, and therefore contagious.
It is thought that COVID-19 symptoms may appear up to 2 wks after a possible exposure, and that even asymptomatic people may be spreading the virus.
By June, H1N1 had sickened about 21,500 Americans and caused 87 deaths across the country.
St. Louis University launched clinical trials on an H1N1 vaccine in late July, and it received federal approval within months. The path to vaccine approval for COVID-19 is expected to take 12 to 18 months because it is a novel virus, leaving scientists to start from scratch.
School children were among the 1st to get the vaccine when it started being distributed more widely that fall. By December, it was available to anyone who wanted it.
By April 2010, 1 year after the 1st cases, the CDC estimated that about 61-M Americans caught the H1N1 flu and 12,500 died. It is now considered 1 of the less severe pandemics in history, with a death rate of 0.001% to 0.007%.
Johns Hopkins University researchers project the US death rate for the coronavirus at about 1.2%. If a projected 40% of the population are sickened, that would mean more than 1.5-M deaths without any suppression measures.
Have a healthy day, stay home!