However, in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve also experienced another pandemic relatively recently: the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic.
You may be curious how these two pandemics compare with each other. Keep reading as we break down their similarities and differences below.
Before we go on to compare the two pandemics in more detail, here are some fast facts about each of them.
|2009 H1N1 Influenza||COVID-19|
|Year started – year ended||2009–2010||2020–present|
|Worldwide deaths||about 284,000 in the first 12 months||about 2,000,000 in the first 12 months|
|Virus||2009 H1N1 influenza virus||SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus|
|Transmission||respiratory droplets, contact with contaminated surfaces, asymptomatic spread||respiratory droplets, contact with contaminated surfaces, asymptomatic spread|
|Contagiousness||less contagious than COVID-19, contagious from 1 day before symptoms begin until 5 to 7 days after becoming sick||more contagious than 2009 H1N1 influenza, contagious from 2 days before symptoms begin until 10 days after testing positive|
|Symptoms||fever and chills, fatigue, cough, body aches and pains, headache, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, digestive symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting||similar symptoms to 2009 H1N1 influenza, but also includes loss of smell and taste|
|Symptom onset||sudden after 1 to 4 days||gradual after 2 to 14 days|
|Age group most impacted||people younger than 30||adults over age 30|
|Illness severity||94–98 percent mild||80 percent mild, 20 percent severe or critical|
|Risk factors||being 65 years or older, being younger than 5 years old, being pregnant, having certain underlying health conditions||being 65 years or older, being pregnant, having certain underlying health conditions|
|Complications||pneumonia, worsening of underlying health conditions, secondary bacterial infections, respiratory failure, inflammation of tissues of the heart, brain, or muscles, injury to the kidneys or liver, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), sepsis||same complications as 2009 H1N1 influenza, but also includes:
long-haul COVID-19, blood clots, multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C)
|Treatments||supportive care, FDA-approved antiviral medications like oseltamivir (Tamiflu)||supportive care, FDA-approved antiviral remdesivir (Veklury), various treatments under Emergency Use Authorization|
|Vaccines||several vaccines developed||several vaccines developed|
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Let’s look at some of the similarities between the 2009 H1N1 influenza and COVID-19 pandemics.
Both 2009 H1N1 influenza and COVID-19 can be transmitted in similar ways. These include:
- Respiratory droplets. These are tiny droplets that are made when a person who has the virus talks, sneezes, or coughs. If you inhale these droplets, you can contract the virus.
- Contaminated objects. Respiratory droplets containing virus can land on things like countertops and doorknobs. You can contract the virus by touching these things and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
It’s also possible for a person to pass both viruses when they don’t have any symptoms. This is called asymptomatic transmission.
Both 2009 H1N1 influenza and COVID-19 are respiratory infections that share many symptoms in common. These can include:
- fever and chills
- body aches and pains
- sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
- digestive symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting
One symptom that’s unique to COVID-19 is loss of smell and taste.
The 2009 H1N1 influenza and COVID-19 can range from mild to severe. In both pandemics, certain groups were at an increased risk for severe illness.
The groups at risk for complications from 2009 H1N1 influenza and COVID-19 have significant overlap. They include:
- adults aged 65 and over
- pregnant people
- those with certain types of underlying health conditions
Underlying health conditions that can contribute to complications include:
- chronic lung diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), and cystic fibrosis
- developmental disorders like Down syndrome
- heart disease, including heart failure or coronary artery disease
- kidney disease
- liver disease
- neurological conditions, such as stroke and dementia
- sickle cell disease
- weakened immune system due to cancer treatments, HIV/AIDS, or immunosuppressive drugs
Additional high risk groups for the 2009 H1N1 influenza
Some additional groups that were at a higher riskTrusted Source for serious illness during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic included:
- children under the age of 5
- people under the age of 19 who were receiving long-term aspirin therapy
Additional high risk groups for COVID-19
Additionally, people with the following underlying health conditions are at a higher riskTrusted Source for severe illness from COVID-19:
- having overweight or obesity
- substance use disorders
Both 2009 H1N1 influenza and COVID-19 can lead to similar complications, including:
- worsening of underlying health conditions
- secondary bacterial infections
- respiratory failure
- inflammation of tissues of the heart, brain, or muscles
- injury to the kidneys or liver
- acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
COVID-19 also has a few additional complications, including:
- long-haul COVID
- blood clots
- multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C)
After the emergence of 2009 H1N1 influenza and COVID-19, efforts were quickly made to develop a vaccine.
Over the course of the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, a total of fiveTrusted Source vaccines were approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These vaccines were developed using the same technology that had previously been used for seasonal flu vaccines.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO)Trusted Source, over 200 COVID-19 vaccine candidates are in development at the time of this article, with at least seven different vaccines currently in use across the globe. They use a variety of different technologies, including:
- mRNA (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna)
- viral vectors (Johnson & Johnson, Oxford-AstraZeneca)
- protein subunits (Novavax)
Three vaccines are currently authorized by the FDA for emergency use in the United States. These include the vaccines produced by:
- Johnson & Johnson