Sunday, May 3, 2009

Influenza A (H1N1) Update 3 May 2009 - Some Statistics

There are some people wondering if the media and government attention to the current Influenza A H1N1 outbreak seems to be warranted, or whether there has been too much hype on the topic.

Seems Less Deadly Now

The good news is this strain has not become the “killer pandemic” that has worried epidemiologists for years. Yet it is still a cause for concern.

Even now, a pandemic warning seems prudently warranted. Emphasis on “seems.” Out of the 935 proven cases so far, there have been 23 deaths, for a mortality rate of 2.46%. Out of the suspected 4,585 cases, there have been 101 suspected deaths; a mortality rate of 2.2%.

The good news is that this mortality rate of 2.2% - 2.46% is as little as half that of earlier in the week, when it was calculated to be between 3.4% - 4.3%.

How Bad Can It Get?

Influenza outbreak typically affects 5% - 20% of the population, according to the CDC. If this particular strain of A H1N1 spread worldwide to a maximal uncontrolled extent, that would equate to 335 million to 1.34 billion cases. Given a 2.2% - 2.46% mortality rate, that would equate to global deaths of 8.2 million to 32 million. This is a worst-case scenario, predicated on the mortality rate remaining at >2%, and for 100% of the world to be exposed to infection.

By analogy, consider smaller populations. Take a subway car of 200 New Yorkers. If they all had the flu, pull two of them off the train in body bags. Take a flight of 200 people on an airliner. Pull two off in gurneys sent to the morgue. No one wants to be those two people. No public health official wants that risk.

Those analogies would be if all 200 persons aboard that train or aircraft actually caught the H1N1 virus, and if the present mortality rate remained unchanged. A more accurate analogy would be that, out of a busy subway station or airport, as many as one subway car or aircraft out of five, or as few as one out of twenty, would eventually contain virus-carriers.

If it was a sports stadium of 50,000 people, somewhere between 2,500 - 10,000 would get sick, and somewhere between 50 - 200 would die. Again, predicated on exposure of 100% of the attendees.

That is what would happen if we allowed the virus to remain uncontained, if we took no precautions to prevent the spread of the disease, and if the public remained unwary to seek medical assistance.

Take Care and Due Precaution

This is why minimizing exposure to the virus is so vital, and why those affected should not hesitate to seek help. The more the virus can be contained so it burns out before spreading, the better. The more people who go to the doctor when they feel as if something is just not right the better. Thus, while panic is unwarranted, precaution and care is quite important.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a number of recommendations for preventing seasonal flu, and how to take care of yourself if and when you catch the flu.

Global Understanding wishes everyone the best and safest of spring seasons. Let’s hope this is an emerging crisis that becomes a non-issue with proper care and due diligence.

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