Half of Americans Could Contract Swine Flu This Season

By Allison Bond | August 25, 2009 1:28 pm

fluUp to half of the U.S. population could contract swine flu this upcoming flu season, killing up to 90,000 people and hospitalizing 1.8 million, according to a report released by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Americans lack immunity to the swine flu, which gives the virus the potential to infect more people than the seasonal flu generally does. And although many people who contract the disease might not show symptoms, and most would not be hospitalized, the pandemic would put a strain on the U.S. health-care system … because those patients could occupy between 50% and 100% of available intensive-care beds at the peak of the epidemic in affected regions, while ICU units normally operate close to capacity. Seasonal flu normally causes about 200,000 hospitalizations a year [The Wall Street Journal].

Although the figures put forth by the report sound logical, a number of variables make it difficult to predict whether the actual number of infected Americans will exceed–or fall short of–the White House’s predictions. For example, the estimates are based on various assumptions, including that the virus will not mutate into a more dangerous form or infect more older people. “If it turned out to affect a lot more adults, the severity would be a lot worse” [The Washington Post], says public health expert Marc Lipsitch. On the other hand, the outbreak could also be milder than predicted.

The primary purpose of the estimates was to help guide planning to protect the public. For example, it was estimated that the outbreak could peak in mid-October, so the panel urged expediting the availability of a vaccine [The Washington Post].

Related Content:
80beats: Study: Tamiflu Too Risky & Ineffective for Use by Children
80beats: Swine Flu Vaccine Trials Begin in Australia; U.S. Up Soon
80beats: Killer Flu Strains Lurk & Mutate for Years Before They Go Pandemic
80beats: How the Federal Government is Preparing for Possible Swine Flu Emergency

Image: iStockPhoto

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • http://www.super-science-fair-projects.com Amazing Science Fair Projects

    My students are working on their fall science fair projects and we’re collecting data. The students working on medical science fair projects were wondering why the swine flu seems to be so deadly compared to other forms of influenza?

  • Gadfly

    Amazing…Greater lethality would rise from the comparative lack of any immunity. Seasonal flus tend to resemble each other so anyone who’s had a prior case carries some level of immunity in “memory” in their immune system. This is eerily similar to the Spanish Flu of 1918. Contrary to most flu seasons, then and now, the hardest hit were young adults. The elderly, who’d had many years of dealing with all different kinds of flu strains, held up better.

    Meanwhile, I suggest we start a campaign against the flu vaccine. If all the anti-vaxxers would skip on the vaccination it would be sort of like a nation-wide Darwin Award scenario. We could make a serious dent in that particular dumb-ness part of the gene pool.

  • NewEnglandBob

    Its a good thing that I am part of the half that won’t catch it. Phew!

  • Porco Rosso

    They are just trying to sell tamiflu… remeber AVIAN FLU? remeber the paranoia about how it could infect millions in the US, bla bla bla…. President Bush signs the bill for millions of dollars, then after that… no more news about avian flu. NOW… we have swine flu!! half the population in the US could get infected! We need President Obama to spend millions on dollars! I wonder what’s next… dog flu? cat flu?

  • http://www.phigit.com digital marketing

    I heard on the radio that they are expecting this to be a “mild to medium” severity. They measure the severity not on the number of people who get the disease, but they measure it based on how severe the flu is in the people who do get it. They also said that they might treat children in the general hospitals rather than in just the “children’s” hospital if it comes down to it.

  • Monkey Business

    This round is expected to be mild but that does not mean that it couldn’t easily mutate into a more virulent strain like the Spanish flu, in which case all the paranoia is understandable. Rapid mutations in viruses and bacteria are the same reason that avian flu is still a concern.

  • http://hubpages.com/hub/Student-Microscopes Student Microscopes

    My students are working on a science unit on disease transmission and I was wondering if there are prepared slides for student microscopes that educators can purchase?

  • http://clubneko.net robot makes music

    Re: Monkey; it actually is a variant of H1N1, the so-called Spanish Flu.

    Sadly enough, I’m with Porco and Gadfly on this one. 100% not worried, 100% not getting vaccinated (guillaine barre syndrome anyone?).

  • Angela

    I will be in the front of the line to get vaccinated. I’m 28, which is a bit older than the average affected age, but I have asthma and a crappy immune system that seems to require me getting deathly ill before it is able to rally the calvary to fight it off. The main reason is that I work at a university and am with students all day long. Residence halls, military barracks and the like are the ideal breeding grounds for localized epidemics. Students share bathrooms, classrooms, etc. and there’s always at least one “plague” that circles campus per year (and often more). Students aren’t always as focused on hygiene (and some are just plain disgusting!). So I plan to get the vaccine if possible.

    I do like the idea of the anti-vaxxers voluntarily refusing to get the shot. My problem with this idea in the past has always been that we’re visiting the sins of the parent upon the kids, but in this case, maybe the parents themselves will get ill from the lack of the vaccination!

  • James

    Angela, are you stupid?




    Check those sites, if you care about your life. FOR REAL.

  • SoaperGirl

    If its offered free of charge, I’ll accept it, otherwise I won’t. If you know you already have a compromised immune system, its not stupid to try to protect yourself to be best of your ability. I’ll also use strict hygiene methods as well. Angela is right.

  • BelladonnaRN

    I’m an RN and scheduled to give thousands of flu shots this flu season. BUT I am not going to be vaccinated myself. I have gotten flu shots two times in my life and both times were sick…in the bed..aching..high temps…felt like death …How do I rationalize giving the vaccine but not agreeing with the premise? Answer….It’s my job (yes). I only vaccinate those who have chosen to get the vaccine (yes). Real answer…I have no rational explination except this is what I am being paid to do, part of being in the health care industry is contradictory to ones beliefs.


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