Before considering the differences lets look into the likenesses: These viruses had their origins in swine and a flu that infected healthy young people. Ordinarily flu, especially the common human respiratory seasonal type, is most likely to cause complications and death to the very young who have yet to build up antibodies to the virus and to the older groups with other diseases. Another similarity is fear and over-reactions. Both were and are learning sessions and both posed problems for a world overloaded with other concerns. The biggest difference is in the number of victims: In 1976 there were only two cases of actual swine flu viruses being the cause of the alarm; today there are many.
But first, swine flu is somewhat of a misnomer. The atypical virus causing the illness today is not the same as that of the real swine flu virus of 1776. Then, the fear was that the dreaded Swine flu virus pandemic of 1918 was returning. That escalated concern into full blown fear. It also led to panic and the rapid action of the immunizations that took place. That, in spite of the fact that only two actual Swine flu patients – For Dix, New Jersey, recruits – were actually infected. The others 200 that fell ill was tested and found to have a different and lesser feared strain of the flu virus.
Swine flu, is the type of flu that genuinely that is derived from pigs. The flu that the world is now dealing with is not Swine flu. It has been once again mislabeled. The real Swine flu of the variety that killed 500,000 Americans in 1918 and 20 million worldwide is understandably feared even today. In 1976 the Swine flu virus never got beyond Fort Dix. Today, although in Mexico, residents are blaming pig farms and are pointing fingers of blame, there is not a large amount of evidence to prove they are right. Still, investigations are ongoing and answers are yet to come.
The WHO (World Health Organization) has declared today (4-30-09) that henceforth it will no longer be referring to this particular type of flu as Swine flu. The Geneva authorities decided this because they are concerned about the damage being done to pigs. People are being misled, they observed. Scientifically today’s flu will be labeled H1N1 influenza A. In part this came about because of the news report that Egypt was slaughtering hogs and pigs needlessly.
More on the Mexican Swine virus fear: Why Mexico is hit hardest by this virus is not known, but speculation abounds. In the same way as in 1976, panic has set in, especially in Mexico. Public health reporters and others writing about the differences between the seventies swine flu scare and today’s swine flu scare are grabbing at straws trying to find the right answers. Is it really connected to pigs, or are the pigs indirectly infected by birds carrying the dreaded avian virus and then infecting people? All are anxious for answers. These, of necessity, will take time. Hopefully, today’s approaching pandemic will be begin to dissipate and will be downgraded to a three, a two and finally will be non-existent. Then we will mark off one more difference from our list of differences between today and forty years ago.