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Friday, October 02, 2009

H1N1 Mortality Rates

A quick study about the virulence of H1N1 is out, and I wanted to share this, as well as a few other thoughts. First, understand the three main ways that the flu can kill you:
Influenza lethality is due to three main causes: First, direct viral origin, leading to viral pneumonia of high severity, with an acute respiratory distress syndrom (ARDS), associated with 30 to 50% lethality in intensive Care Unit (ICU) [1]; Second, bacterial surinfection, due to pneumococal, staphylococal, streptococal, or meningococal pneumonia, usely curable with appropriate antibiotics, provided they are administered early enough; and Third, decompensation of severe underlying conditions, often in elderly people or in vulnerable chronic patients.
What is of concern from the article is this passage:
New Caledonia and Mauritius figures are consistant to a rough estimate of about 1 death from ARDS due to H1N1pdm per 10,000 infections, i.e. a virulence of an order of magnitude of 100 times that observed for seasonal strains.

Now this is very important to understand. This is the ARDS related deaths, not the ones that are attributed to flu that strikes down people in numbers of about 30,000+ in the US each year. We probably will not see 3,000,000+ flu deaths in the US because of these numbers. First of all, as reported, the 30,000+ number is sketchy reporting in the media, and are not all ARDS related. Secondly, we actually do have a vaccine for this strain, and that should help a great deal.

HOWEVER, one of the things that this virus has shown is a greater effect on the young and healthy. Much like the 1918 flu pandemic. So those of you who say, "I never get sick." or "I have a strong immune system." or something along those lines, you may need to be extra careful this flu season. In layman terms, this virus can cause your immune system to go into overdrive, and afflict you with ARDS. Your strong immune system may be your biggest weakness and liability this year. Please take all the prcations that you can. If you feel ill, do not go out in public. Wash your hands often. Cover your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze. AND GET VACCINATED! If not to save yourself, to save those around you. Who knows, you could end up saving the life of a loved one even.

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