The H1N1 virus was originally referred to as swine flu because when it was first tested in a laboratory, technicians discovered that several of its genes were very similar to those in an influenza virus that pigs contract and spread. However, further research and testing revealed that the new virus was not the same as the one normally found in pigs. The virus that appeared in the United States in April 2009 is spreading worldwide. Many countries have set up health screening units at their entry points in an attempt to prevent any carriers from entering the country and circulating at will. Some countries have even designated certain hospitals for the victims.

H1N1 is a new virus so it can spread rapidly as no one has natural immunity and it requires several months to develop an effective vaccine. This flu is highly contagious. It is spread through personal contact, through coughing and sneezing, and through coming in contact with a contaminated surface such as a counter top, doorknob or telephone receiver. The virus can survive on any environmental surface from two to eight hours. The person touches the object and then touches their face so the organism transfers to the person's face and finds its way into the respiratory tract. A person is contagious from one day prior to getting the flu up to five to seven days afterward.

The symptoms of H1N1 are very similar to those of ordinary seasonal flu. The person has a sore throat, fever, coughing spells, congestion in the nose and chest, chills, headache and an overall aching body together with fatigue. Some people have also had diarrhea and nausea. Health authorities have suggested that people living in areas where H1N1 has penetrated should contact their doctor or report to a designated hospital if they have these symptoms.

Preventive measures for H1N1 are much the same as those for seasonal flu. People need to limit contact with other people by avoiding crowds and crowded areas like malls. If they must go into these areas, they should wear face masks. The face mask protects them from the contaminated droplets released into the air when others cough or sneeze. Frequent hand washing is also urged. Statistics show that only one third of the population thoroughly washes their hands after using the toilet. Health authorities advise washing hands with soap and warm water eight to ten times daily. If this isn't possible, they should carry with them and use sanitized wipes. People should also refrain from touching their faces unless their hands are clean.

Anti-viral drugs are available for treatment. These will ensure that the virus does not reproduce in your body, and bring about a faster cure.

Contrary to what some people believe you cannot contract H1N1 from eating pork as long as the meat is cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees. However, all meats, not just pork should be cooked to this temperature. The virus can also be killed by various chemical germicides such as chlorine bleach, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, iodine and some detergents.