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Harp's avatar

What would happen if the body contracted seasonal flu and H1N1 concurrently?

Asked by Harp (19103points) September 10th, 2009

Would you be far sicker than with either alone, or are they so similar that the body would just orchestrate one “flu” response?

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22 Answers

ShanEnri's avatar

Good question! I will have to follow this one!

patg7590's avatar

would the viruses play nice? or kill each other?

hannahsugs's avatar

@patq7590: I don’t think viruses are capable of killing eachother. They’re not like bacteria, i.e. they’re not actually alive. As far as i understand it (biologists feel free to correct me), viruses invade cells and trick them into creating more replicas of the virus. They aren’t free agents: they can’t reproduce or take actions on their own. With this in mind, to answer @Harp, i think you’d probably get sicker than just having one flu. The immune system is complicated though, and I’m no doctor, so I can’t say for sure!

I am , however a scientist, so maybe i should suggest an experiment to test various hypotheses: any volunteers?

patg7590's avatar

@hannahsugs I guess I was wondering if the “tricked” set of instructions were compatible with each other, or if they would conflict, making each other overall more (or less) effective in invading the host.

shilolo's avatar

I have yet to see such a case, or here of one though medical channels. It would be difficult to predict the outcome, but likely it would be worse owing to confusion on the part of doctors on how to treat such a patient. The current seasonal influenza is resistant to Tamiflu, while H1N1 (swine flu) is susceptible. Conversely, seasonal influenza is susceptible to amanatadine (the other antiviral agent), but H1N1 is resistant. In some cases, where we aren’t sure what the virus is, we treat with both agents, but this is rare.

As far as the biology is concerned, it might not be too different, as the antiviral defenses for influenza on the part of the human immune system are similar.

JLeslie's avatar

I think interferon produced by our own bodies helps prevent this type of occurance?

eambos's avatar

@shilolo (since you should know more about this than anyone else) If a person were to have both, would it be possible for a mutation to occur, creating a seasonal or H1N1 flu that is immune to both Tamiflu and amanatadine?

That would be scary.

Note: Im not worried about this flu at all. It ha claimed far fewer lives than the seasonal flu does every year. A superbug would be freaky, but I highly doubt it would ever happen. Hypothetical situations are fun :)

JLeslie's avatar

@eambos Have you ever taken anti-viral medicine for the flu? I never have. Both flu’s seem to only be a grave problem in people who have underlying problems, are very young or are very old. But, it will be interesting to see Shilolo’s answer to your question. Goodness knows there could be a deadly flu that mutates, but for now I would not be paranoid of the flu’s that are out there.

shilolo's avatar

@eambos Yes, it certainly is possible for a virus to develop resistance to both classes of antiviral agents. Not to freak you out or anything, but it has already happened.

teh_kvlt_liberal's avatar

Seems noisome to me

eambos's avatar

@shilolo It’s amazing what a virus can do! I remember learning about the DNA between two viruses (virii?) splicing, but I wasn’t sure if I remembered correctly.

aphilotus's avatar

Reminds me of the Simpsons episode where they find out that Mr. Burns is not disease-free, rather he has every disease, and the exist in a delicate balance of disease-cockblockery that leaves him symptom free.

Dr. Nick described it as Three Stooges Syndrome

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

A local news report here stated that the H1N1 would effectively overrides the standard flu.

casheroo's avatar

Ugh, that would just really suck.

shilolo's avatar

I should add, that if one was highly unfortunate enough to contract both viruses simultaneously, that there could easily be genetic reassortment and recombination events to generate a wholly new virus.

casheroo's avatar

@shilolo Stop being scary.

shilolo's avatar

@casheroo Scary is what I deal with every day. Try walking from room to room like this:
1. Severe MRSA infection
2. Severe Clostridium difficile infection
3. Multidrug resistant E. coli
4. Influenza (of course)
5. MRSA
6. MRSA
7. MRSA
8. Vancomycin resistant enterococcus
9. Tuberculosis
10. Neisseria meningitis
etc.
etc.

Fun stuff!

casheroo's avatar

@shilolo :( My grandmother just passed from a severe MRSA infection in the lungs, which we believe was obtained while in the hospital for something completely unrelated. I’m all too familiar with it now.
Also, is having that knowledge hard as a parent? I imagine it’s a burden as well as a gift.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

@shilolo: Ok, you just ticked one of my pet peeves. I keep telling people (mostly my doctors and nurses) how alcohol-based hand-sanitizers aren’t indicated against MRSA, and no one seems to listen! They seem to have never heard of MRSA or are just too lazy to care! Do you deal with that too? How?

shilolo's avatar

@casheroo I’m very sorry to hear about your grandmother. What you described is an all-too-common event. Enter hospital for problem A, develop problem B (often a serious infection). As far as the knowledge, what I’m most concerned about is bringing home a serious infection to the kids, mainly.

@La_chica_gomela Frequent hand washing is a major key to prevention, but doctors and nurses frankly suck at that. There are other hand-sanitizers in the hospital and clinic that can be used effectively, but there really is no substitute for hand-washing.

casheroo's avatar

@shilolo Thank you. We’re actually pursuing legal action (not because she acquired MRSA) so it’s a long road ahead of us all, but we believe justice needs to be served.

mattbrowne's avatar

Most likely nothing if the body got both vaccines in time.

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