Influenza is a household malady by name along with other ominous illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The disease made its claim to fame in 2009, when a strain of influenza masquerading under the guise of H1N1 began to circulate at a pandemic level. Now, the malady has once again made headlines due to a recent influenza outbreak in California.
Reports suggests that the death toll from this year’s influenza outbreak is already on par with the death toll from last year’s flu season. Exactly 45 deaths have thus far been reported in adults under the age of 65. In addition, investigators believe that influenza was likely the culprit of 50 other deaths. Two child have unfortunately died from the influenza virus, one being in San Mateo County. Recent numbers confirm at least 17 people have died since the outbreak who were under the age of 65 in the Bay Area.
Swine flu is the malady’s most popular name, whose origins can be traced back to the rise and trade of pig production. Bird and domesticated pigs infected by the influenza virus expanded rapidly. The influenza virus is a zoonotic disease, which means the virus is contagious to humans. There are three commonly known influenza viruses. Influenza virus found in pigs is known as swine flu, in birds, avian flu and in humans, the H1N1 virus.
In 2009, The Center for Disease Control declared swine flu as an epidemic. Scanning H1N1’s genome revealed the virus’s genetic composition consisted of bird, human and pig flu parts, which were reassembled in pigs, and in turn, circulated back to the human population. A 2009 study speculates H1N1 had likely been in circulation in the pig population for years. Swine flu continues to persist, as noted by the influenza outbreak in California.
So how does the influenza virus work? Viruses are parallel to highly sophisticated computer hackers who break through various security codes in order to seize data. At the molecular level, the interior workings of cells that comprise animals are known as eukaryotic cells, which are protected by a biological membrane that consist of a lipid bilayer embedded with protein molecules. At the center of the cell lies a nucleus composed of chromosomes which contain digital information used to build a human being.
This is the seat of information our biological hacker seeks to seize and manipulate. The influenza virus surpasses the cell membrane by latching onto one of the cells and insert toxic proteins into those cells. Once the virus has surpassed this layer, it alters the interior molecular machinery so that during cell division, it now makes copies of the virus instead of the cell. At the macrobiotic level, the influenza virus spreads from one host to the next by means of coughing, sneezing and vomiting.
People over 65 tend to be the most susceptible to the flu; however, older generations may be more immune to the virus than younger generations possibly due to a similar strain of flu that broke out about 50 years ago. Physicians recommend that the public get their flu shots if they have not already in order to combat the influenza outbreak in California. Although the strength of the vaccine is not fully realized until two weeks after it is seeded, a weaker form of the vaccine is better than no vaccine at all.
By Nathan Cranford