Swine Flu

H1N1 not as bad as feared

2009-12-08 23:50

Special Report

Washington - The H1N1 flu outbreak appears to be less severe than earlier feared, according to a new study by US health experts who found fewer than expected hospitalisations or severe complications from the virus.

The British and US-funded study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), which appears online in the journal PLoS Medicine, said the swine flu pandemic appears far "milder" than anticipated.

"Our work shows that the severity of the H1N1 flu may be less than initially feared," Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidaemiology at HSPH and the study's senior author.

"Early on, it was difficult to measure the flu's impact and it was crucial to plan for the full range of possible outcomes," he said.

"Fortunately, the virus now appears to be near the milder end," said Lipsitch, who heads the Centre for Communicable Disease Dynamics at the HSPH, which focuses on mathematical modelling and analysis of data of pandemic and drug resistant infections.

But he stressed that it remains important to continue to vaccinate against the swine flu virus.


"This is a serious disease," said Lipsitch.

"The US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and others have shown that certain high-risk groups, including pregnant women, people with asthma, and people with compromised immune systems, should be vaccinated and should seek prompt treatment if they suspect they are sick with H1N1," he said.

"Even for people outside these high-risk groups, vaccination is an important way to reduce the risk of what can be a serious illness."

The World Health Organisation counts some 209 000 laboratory-confirmed cases and more than 3 205 deaths worldwide as of September 11  2009, although health officials said this is likely a gross undercount.

If the virus does not mutate into a more lethal illness, researchers estimate that the autumn-winter pandemic wave of H1N1 flu will probably cause a far smaller death toll than the estimated 36 000 killed in the average flu season.

Read more on:    who  |  h1n1 flu

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