The 2009 H1N1 and H5N1 influenza viruses are newly (re-) emerged influenza A viruses (2009 A(H1N1) and A(H5N1), respectively) that have recently posed tremendous health threats in many regions worldwide. With the 2009 outbreak of H1N1 influenza A, the world witnessed the first influenza pandemic of the 21st century. The disease has rapidly spread across the entire globe, and has resulted in hundreds of thousands of cases with confirmed infection. Although characterized by high transmissibility, the virulence and fatality of the 2009 A(H1N1) influenza virus have thus far remained relatively low. The reverse holds true for A(H5N1) influenza; at a fatality rate that exceeds 60%, it is known to cause severe damage to the human respiratory system, but is not presently capable of efficient transmission from human to human. Apart from the clear differences between the two types of influenza, there are some significant similarities that warrant attention. In particular, the more severe and fatal 2009 A(H1N1) influenza cases have shown symptoms similar to those reported in cases of A(H5N1) influenza. Histopathological findings for these cases, to the extent available, also appear to have similarities for both diseases in terms of damage and severity. Here we review important recent publications in this area, and we discuss some of the key commonalities and contrasts between the two influenza A types in terms of their biology, origins, clinical features, pathology and pathogenesis, and receptors and transmissibility.