Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New H5N1 Avian Flu Outbreak

While most individuals are continuing to focus on the on-going H1N1 swine flu pandemic, they are generally unaware that a new H5N1 avian flu outbreak is occuring with reported cases in several countries, including 90 reported cases in Egypt alone. At this point, no one knows how severe this new flu outbreak will be. While the 2009 H1N1 swine flu has turned out to not be as severe as feared, health officials warn that at some point we could have a repeat of the 1918-19 Spanish flu -- also known as the "Great Influenza" - which caused more deaths from any single cause in human history. As many as 150 million people worldwide died from the 1918 Spanish flu, 700,000 of these in the U.S. Like the current H1N1 swine flu, what was unique about the 1918 Spanish flu was how young people were more likely to die than adults. It is still unclear what are the characteristics of the even newer H5N1 avian flu outbreak.

Latest Update on H1N1 Swine Flu Deaths and Hospitalizations

As of November 14, 2009, the CDC estimates that 34-67 million people in the U.S. had become infected with the H1N1 swine flu, with the best estimate of the likely number of cases being 47 million people. Its best estimates is that of this number 213,000 people ended up being hospitalized for the H1N1 swine flu. In one hospital, 28 of 100 pregnant women in intensive care died from the H1N1 swine flu. While most people did not get seriously ill even though they were infected with the H1N1 swine flu, what has been the greatest concern of health officials has been how in a small number of people it has infected the cells of the lungs of an individual. As the flu cells rapidly mutliply, it causes the cell walls to burst. As of November 14, CDC's best estimate of the number of deaths in the U.S. from the 2009 H1N1 swine flu has been 9,820. Of this number, 7,450 deaths were for individuals aged 18-65 while 1,090 deaths were individuals aged 17 and under. The typical pattern of those individuals who have died from the swine flu has been for them to show signs of getting better - then to suddenly get worse as they develop viral pneumonia. The good news is that since November 14, 2009, the number of H1N1 swine flu cases in the U.S. has been steadily decreasing.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Revised Estimates for H1N1 Swine Flu Deaths

While all types of the flu are notoriously unpredictable, a new study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health for the federal government indicates that the number of deaths from the current H1N1 swine flu pandemic are likely to be lower than previously predicted. With there currently being over 80 million doses of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine distributed thus far in the U.S., it appears that the worst of the current pandemic might now be past us. This is backed up by recent statistics that show a decrease in hospitalizations from the H1N1 swine flu virus. As a consequence, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health are predicting that the number of deaths in the U.S. from the H1N1 swine flu for the year will range anywhere from 6,000 to 45,000, with the predicted number of deaths likely being in the 10,000-15,000 range. This compares with the previous estimate of 30,000-90,000 deaths in the U.S. for the current H1N1 swine flu pandemic, 34,000 deaths from the 1967-68 flu epidemic, 70,000 deaths from the 1957-58 flu epidemic, and 500,000-750,000 deaths from the 1917 flu pandemic. Other experts caution, however, that in past flu epidemics, there has typically been a late-winter second wave. If this were to occur with the current pandemic, then death rates could be higher. For this reason, all health experts encourage individuals to get vaccinated for the H1N1 swine flu if they have not already done so. Health experts also caution that the current strain of the H1N1 swine flu could still mutate and become more deadly. Finally, even if the overall death rate for the current H1N1 swine flu pandemic is lower than previously predicted, health experts point out that it has nevertheless had an exceptionally higher percentage among young people and pregnant women. For this reason, the H1N1 swine flu pandemic continues to be a continuing health crisis.