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The H1N1 Influenza Virus: Benefits of Vaccination

Introduction

The coronavirus pandemic is not the first major epidemic in the 21st century. In 2009, the H1N1 virus, which is a subtype of influenza A1, caused a swine flu epidemic (Jilani et al.). In addition, the same virus was responsible for one of the largest outbreaks of the 20th century, the Spanish flu in 1918 (Alfhonce 2). Its modern name comes from the fact that pigs are initially the host of this virus. However, due to mutations, the virus can produce new strains depending on the type of HA or NA antigens, therefore, in some variations, the flu can be transmitted from person to person (Alfhonce 1). As a result, the human H1N1 strain causes such symptoms as nasal secretions, chills, fever, decreased appetite, and upper respiratory tract infections, and in some cases, lower respiratory tract disease that can lead to death. Although the virus is less common today due to the immunization of the population, it is still dangerous to people.

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The peculiarities of the H1N1 virus persistence determine its features. The H1N1 influenza virus is an orthomyxovirus and produces “virions ranging in diameter from 80 to 120 nm with an RNA genome size of approximately 13.5 kb” (Jilani et al.). The genome has eight regions that encode 11 proteins with different functions. For example, the envelope protein hemagglutinin (HA) causes red blood cells to clump together, and it attaches the virus to the infected cell (Jilani et al.). The life cycle of a virus consists of such stages as penetration into the host cell, entry of vRNP into the nucleus, replication of the viral genome; export vRNP; and budding on the plasma membrane of the host cell (Jilani et al.). Nevertheless, today there is a vaccine that allows people to interrupt this cycle and prevent the development of symptoms of the disease, which significantly reduced the degree of its manifestation among the population. However, the vaccine has side effects, and this paper will look at the dangers of the vaccine against the risks of the H1N1 virus to determine its benefits.

The H1N1 epidemic has stopped because humanity has been able to contain and limit the virus’s spread. However, as with any vaccine, there were skeptics in the world who spoke about the dangers of swine flu medicine or its ineffectiveness. Besides, scientific and medical research has confirmed an increase in the level of narcolepsy after vaccination, which is the argument for many anti-waxers (Sarkanen et al. 177). However, Sarkanen et al. investigated this side effect of fighting the virus and concluded that it is associated with only one medication, and the benefit of vaccination outweighs its risks.

The authors of “Incidence of narcolepsy after H1N1 influenza and vaccinations” conducted a meta-analysis to determine how the H1N1 vaccine affected human health and find a connection between its use and the development of narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a rare condition that manifests itself in sleep disturbances, such as falling asleep suddenly during the day. The authors conduct a meta-analysis of the literature available on this topic and recorded it from European hospitals to check their suggestions (Sarkanen et al. 178). This approach is affordable and relatively accurate as hospitals provide official medical records.

The first feature the scientists found was that there was a link between the H1N1 vaccine and narcolepsy. However, this connection was minor and related only to the Pandemrix vaccine (Sarkanen et al. 184). A feature of this vaccine is that it contains AS03 adjuvant, which can cause narcolepsy; however, this fact has not been sufficiently confirmed, since other vaccines consisting of this component are safe (Sarkanen et al. 182). In general, scientists have not established the cause of the manifestation of narcolepsy, since it can be associated with the peculiarities of people’s bodies, some elements of the vaccine, or the H1N1 virus’s effect on a person. Thus, this study made only a minor contribution to understanding the H1N1 virus’s work and the prevention of its spread and mutations.

Moreover, the authors found a link between the use of the Pandemrix vaccine and the increased incidence of narcolepsy. However, this relationship is evident in a few cases; approximately 1 per 18,400 children and adolescents have narcolepsy, and 1 in 181,000 adults (Sarkanen et al. 181). In addition, these cases are associated only with type 1 narcolepsy, which can manifest itself up to 2 years after vaccination, although these data require clarification (Sarkanen et al. 185). Consequently, the authors conclude that vaccination’s negative consequences are negligible concerning the total number of vaccinated people and the possibility of spreading the disease without this preventive measure. For this reason, while Pandemrix requires further study, its benefits, as well as other vaccines, are more significant than their harms, since they prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus.

Conclusion

In conclusion, this article demonstrates the evidence about the benefits of vaccination, which is crucial to preventing epidemics. Although the authors use a significant literature base, bias and insufficient empirical data can decrease the results’ accuracy. However, even with this data’s errors, the low number of people with narcolepsy demonstrates that the vaccine is safe for most populations and protects them from the swine flu virus.

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Further research on the virus should aim to study the mechanisms of its mutation into new strains to prevent the development of new diseases and epidemics. In addition, a more detailed study of the composition and mechanism of vaccines’ work contributes to the creation of new options that are less hazardous to human health. Simultaneously, knowledge of the basic structure of an effective vaccine and the characteristics of virus mutations will help find a way to immunize against a new flu strain and prevent another epidemic.

Works Cited

Alfhonce, Michael. Influenza H1N1 Virus as a Global Issue. GRIN Verlag, 2017.

Jilani, Talha, et al. ” H1N1 Influenza.” StatPearls, 2020, Web.

Sarkanen, Tomi O., et al. “Incidence of Narcolepsy After H1N1 Influenza and Vaccinations: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Sleep Medicine Reviews, vol. 38, 2018, pp. 177–186.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'The H1N1 Influenza Virus: Benefits of Vaccination'. 23 April.

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