H1N1 Flu Pandemic a Case of Overreaction?

Even though federal health agencies are launching a major campaign to make certain that more Americans get flu shots, a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges that the H1N1 swine flu pandemic is not as bad as originally feared.Was the H1N1 flu panic really necessary

“It’s probably going to be the mildest pandemic on record – compared to the three that happened in the 20th century,” according to Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and co-author of an article in the journal Public Library of Science.

Although the flu season is far from over – and a third wave of H1N1 could still occur – only eight percent of Americans have been infected so far.  By contrast, the Spanish Influenza of 1918 – 1920 infected approximately 28 percent of all Americans.  According to Lipsitch, if the H1N1 virus doesn’t alter, it’s fair to expect that between 10 and 20 percent of Americans will become infected. “That’s toward the upper end of a typical flu season,” he said.

If 15 percent of the population is stricken with H1N1, hospitalizations could range from approximately 70,000 to 600,000.  Lipsitch expects hospitalizations will fall in the middle of that range, which is what happens in a typical flu season.  The H1N1 death rate has been less than during a normal flu season.  The difference is that most of the deaths have been children, teenagers and adults under the age of 50.  In a typical year, flu tends to kill people over age 65.  The reason is that younger people are getting H1N1 flu, while older people are not.

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