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Infectious Disease Longevity and Age Management

Up to 40 percent of Americans could contract swine flu over the next two years, officials warn

10 years, 10 months ago

2532  0
Posted on Jul 30, 2009, 8 a.m. By gary clark

The H1N1 pandemic is far from over, according to U.S. health officials who warn that up to 40 of U.S. citizens could contract the virus over the next two years -- and many could die -- unless the vaccine campaign this fall is successful.

In the normal course of the flu season, approximately 36,000 people in the United States die from flu and its complications. However, the next few flu seasons could be far worse, believe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) experts. Based on their projections, twice the number of people who typically get sick in a normal flu season could contract swine flu, caused by the H1N1 virus. The CDC has based its estimates on past flu pandemics, including the pandemic that occurred in 1957 when close to 70,000 people in the U.S. died. In addition, the CDC expects many more people to catch the new virus, due to lack of immunity, which could push up the number of deaths from 90,000 to several hundred thousand over the next two years. But notes CDC spokesman Tom Skinner, “The number of deaths and illnesses would drop if the pandemic peters out or if efforts to slow its spread are successful.” Federal officials estimate that up to 160 million doses of swine flu vaccine should be available sometime in October. “Hopefully mitigation efforts will have a big impact on future cases,” Skinner says.

What about the incidence of H1N1 flu worldwide? The World Health Organization (WHO) calculates that up to 2 billion people could become infected over the next 24 months. The WHO uses a two-year estimate specifically because flu pandemics occur in waves that last more than one year.

So how many deaths has the H1N1 virus caused to date? The CDC says that number in the United States is 263, but that most likely 1 million Americans have actually contracted the illness, many of whom had such mild symptoms, they never reported their illness to authorities. Officials expect a spike in the number of cases this fall, when children return to school and the weather turns cold, making it easier for the virus to spread.

On June 11, 2009, the WHO signaled that a global pandemic of H1N1 was underway when it raised the worldwide pandemic alert level to Phase 6. The WHO's action was a reflection of the spread of the virus, not because of the severity of illness that it caused. At that time, more than 70 countries had reported cases caused by H1N1 infection. Since then, the H1N1 virus has continued to spread, with the number of countries reporting cases nearly doubling.

News Release: Swine flu could strike up to 40 percent in 2 years  July 26, 2009

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