Tuesday, August 25, 2009

CDC report warns that as many as 90,000 in US could die from swine flu

So says a report from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, according to the Los Angeles Times. They are warning that two million could be hospitalized and 300,000 might "clog up" ICUs:
Overall, 20% to 40% of the population could develop symptoms of the strain commonly known as swine flu, and 30,000 to 90,000 could die, according to the report. During a normal flu season, the virus kills about 35,000 Americans.

The difference this year is that pandemic H1N1 is killing middle-aged adults and adolescents, whereas seasonal flu kills primarily the elderly.

The numbers confirm those previously released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, but he emphasized the great unpredictability of flu outbreaks and cautioned that this winter's could be much milder.
One report author emphasized that this is a possibility, not a prediction. In the meantime, kiddies, wash your hands (I don't see a lot of hand-washing in Hawaii). 

The report on the H1N1 epidemic can be found here

PBS's "Newshour" has a good overview of this threat, including an interview with Anne Schuchat, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Well, it's important for people to know that disease hasn't gone away. We continue to see transmission this summer, and we're currently at higher levels of influenza disease than would be expected for this time of year.
We do think that over the next several weeks, as school kids return to classes, we'll see increases. And we know that we won't have a vaccine before school kids are back in school. They're already back in school.

So we have a number of weeks to months where we'll be needing to use other interventions. But we are working carefully on vaccine development, testing, and planning to implement a vaccination program. At this point, we're expecting to be launching a voluntary vaccination program in the middle of October.

And so it's very important before then for people to remember those important steps they can take: washing their hands, staying home when they're sick, staying informed about what's going on.

The vaccination program, though, we are working hard to be ready for. We're expecting doses to be online and available by mid-October and that additional doses will be coming out every week. And we're working closely with the public health system, as well as private providers, to find ways to reach people who are recommended to receive vaccines.
Expect school closures and other drastic measures. I hope that in Korea the tide has been held back enough that the vaccine will be available before the disease hits full force. Equivalent numbers for South Korea (with one-sixth the population of the US) would be 300,000 hospitalized, 50,000 in ICUs, and up to 15,000 deaths.

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