Tuesday, September 15, 2009

How Many American Deaths Predicted From H1N1 Swine Flu Epidemic

During testimony before a Congressional committee today, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Servics was asked how serious was the current H1N1 swine flu epidemic. To answer and put the problem in perspective, she explained that there are typically 36,000 deaths per year in the U.S. from the seasonal flu. This is despite the fact that most of us have at least some immunity from the seasonal flu - and a vaccine is offered every year for the seasonal. From the seasonal flu, most deaths are among the elderly or those with immune diseases such as AIDS. As such, she explained that we should probably expect as a minimum a similar number of 36,000 deaths this year from the H1N1 swine flu. This is especially the case since the infection rate for the swine flu seems to be higher than for the seasonal flu. The difference is that with the swine flu, the vast majority of deaths are expected to be among school age children. Since the population has no prior immunity to the H1N1 swine flu, however, it is reasonable to expect that the death rate for it will be even higher than for the typical seasonal flu. Also, the H1N1 swine flu is clearly sweeping through college campuses at a time when it will be at least a month before the vaccine for it can start to be administered.