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What is H1N1 ?

Influenza or "the flu" is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses.  Novel H1N1 ("swine flu") is a new influenza first detected in people in the United States in April 2009.  This virus is spreading from person-to-person worldwide in much the same way that regular seasonal flu viruses spread; mainly through droplets caused by people with the virus coughing or sneezing, and occasionally through touching someone - such as a surface or object - with flu viruses on it and then touching one's mouth or nose.  Both regular seasonal flu and H1N1 can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death.

On June 11, 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that a "pandemic" of novel H1N1 was underway.  The determination was made based on increased spread of the virus and did not reflect an increase in severity of the outbreak.  The majority of affected individuals have continued to experience mild to moderate symptoms similar to ordinary seasonal flu, and most recover without hospitalization or antiviral treatment, although death has occured as a result of illness associated with the virus.