This Week in Swine Flu: How Many Deaths, Vaccine in Sight & Tough Oldsters

By Eliza Strickland | August 28, 2009 2:17 pm

swine flu virusAnother day, another swine flu story: Amidst all the chatter, it can be hard to find the most reliable sources and relevant info. To keep you informed of the latest intelligence, 80beats will round up the news each week.

On Monday, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology issued an alarming report spelling out a “plausible scenario” for how the swine flu pandemic will play out during the coming flu season. The report estimated that the H1N1 virus could hospitalize 1.8 million Americans, potentially clogging emergency rooms and intensive care wards, and could kill up to 90,000 people in the United States. In a typical year, the seasonal flu virus kills about 35,000 Americans.

But on Tuesday, some public health officials walked back the report’s conclusions. One expert who helped prepare the report said that the numbers were probably on the high side, given that some weeks had passed since the calculations were finished in early August. “As more data has come out of the Southern Hemisphere, where it seems to be fading, it looks as if it’s going to be somewhat milder,” said the expert, Marc Lipsitch…. “If we were betting on the most likely number, I’d say it’s not 90,000 deaths; it’s lower” [The New York Times].

The report had urged the federal government to make swine flu vaccines available in September, when the virus is expected to circulate among students returning to schools and colleges. But the new head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Thomas Frieden, said on Wednesday that it is unlikely vaccines against H1N1 could get out to the public sooner than mid-October, when mass vaccination is scheduled to start. “We wish we had new vaccine technology that would allow us to turn on a dime and make new vaccine in terms of weeks or months. It’s not possible with today’s technology to do that,” he said [Reuters].

Health officials are reminding the public that most people who become infected with swine flu will experience only mild symptoms and won’t be in any danger, similar to a seasonal flu infection. However, the demographics of the two viruses are different: Swine flu appears to take a toll on the young, while most severe seasonal flu cases are found in the elderly. On Thursday, Chicago’s public health officials released a report stating that in Chicago, kids between 5 and 14 were 14 times more likely than the those over 60 to come down with with the H1N1 pandemic flu [The Wall Street Journal]. It’s thought that the elderly may have some residual immunity to the H1N1 virus due to related flu outbreaks decades ago.

The elevated risk for children is reflected in the federal government’s plans for the vaccination campaign: health officials plan to eventually vaccinate at least 160 million people by December, with pregnant women, health-care workers, children and young adults at the front of the line [Reuters]. However, doctors may run into problems with people who mistrust vaccines, either because they mistakenly believe that they’re linked to autism, or because they simply think that a hastily concocted vaccine may have unknown health effects. A troubling survey in Hong Kong that was taken in May (before swine flu was officially declared a pandemic) found that less than half of hospital workers intended to accept pre-pandemic H1N1 vaccination. The most common reason for refusal was potential side effects [Reuters].

To combat misinformation and to spread the word about vaccinations, the CDC is using such tools as a flu-related Twitter feed, its Facebook page, and interviews with leading scientists on YouTube.

Related Content:
80beats: Half of Americans Could Contract Swine Flu This Season
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
DISCOVER: Vaccine Production Is Horribly Outdated. Here Are 3 Ways to Fix It.

Image: CDC

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • http://MyConcernaboutNoSwineInfluenzaVaccineSupplies Jocelyn Gallant

    The Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta,
    Georgia, should have sent out much more swine influenza
    vaccine supplies, than it did, to every state in America
    becauseso many people already died of the swine flu this year.
    A forty-five-year old person in region almost died of the swine
    flu. She was out sick for two weeks but is now back at work.
    She still does not feel well. She is not on a lot of medication
    for her swine influenza virus. Why were all of the swine flu
    vaccine supplies out in all of the states as you had already
    promise? When my sister Jocelyn Gallant and I called our
    doctors’ offices to ask the nurses whether they had swine
    flu vaccine supplies, they said, “No, they are not.”

    The United States has not learn anything from the 1918 flu
    panpandemic. The US needs to move onto the 21st century
    by coming up with a new way to vaccinate people. The Center
    for Disease Control and Prevention ought to invent in more
    influenza researches right now. Congress is talking about
    a government run healthcare system. Congress must give
    the doctors the incentive to order their flu vaccine supplies
    for their offices without penalizing them. We need trot reform
    in America to prevent people from suing physician and nurses.
    More young people have to in role in medicine at colleges to
    practice medicine. They are our caregivers for tomorrow.

    Jocelyn Gallant
    Salem, New Hampshire

  • http://MyConcernaboutNoSwineInfluenzaVaccineSupplies Roberta Gallant

    I am not happy with President Barack Obama and Congress
    because they are now controlling America’s health-care system
    when America should control its own health-care system and
    because President Obama is taking over our health-care system,
    the banks, housing, and everything else but the kitchen sink.

    Barack Obama broke too many of his campaign promise
    to put America back on track. Mr. Obama said that he
    would ask Congress to vote on the Community Choice Act.
    When Obama was a senator in Congress, he supported the
    Community Choice Act for people with disabilities to receive
    more and better community-based services and supports
    in their communities. When Barack became president
    of the United States, he never supported the act.

    He has lied to an special olympian with a developmental
    disability and other citizens with disabilities by not offering
    them decent community-based services and supports.
    The President gave General Motors in Detroit, Michigan,
    more money. He was wrong in bailing out GM, too.

    Roberta Gallant
    Concord, New Hampshire

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