The first doses of vaccine against swine flu, officially known as H1N1 of 2009, will start arriving at hospitals, doctors’ offices and clinics around the country this week. That’s record time for a new vaccine, only a little more than five months after scientists discovered the now-pandemic virus.
The swine flu vaccination campaign is moving from planning to implementation, as Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts it.
We use “swine flu” as one of several names, along with “pandemic flu,” “the new H1N1” and “the new flu.” We try not to refer to this new virus as simply “H1N1,” although many do, because there are many H1N1 flu viruses, including a seasonal H1N1 that is still circulating.
Genetically, the flu virus discovered last April is made up of genetic elements that have most in common with swine flu viruses, but also have genetic sequences from human and bird flu viruses. Scientists believe the new virus has circulated in swine for a decade or more without having been detected as a new virus. It jumped into humans more recently, but no one knows exactly where or when.
The pork industry is concerned that the name “swine flu” implies to some people that they can catch it by eating pork products. There is no such risk.