H1N1 Swine Flu Expected to kill 30,000+ This Winter
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are worried that the H1N1 virus or swine flu may be responsible for anywhere from 30,000 to 90,000 deaths this winter. Estimates from the World Health Organization include projections of 1 in 3 people becoming infected before the expected pandemic runs its course to the tune of about two billion infected people worldwide.
The seasonal flu by comparison is responsible for approximately 36,000 deaths in the United States with several hundred thousand being hospitalized. The H1N1 virus is expected to be at least as lethal since it is a new strain that North Americans will not have any immunity against. Only 302 people have died from swine flu between April 15 and July 24, 2009 out of 43,000 that fell ill, but this was at a time when the flu season was over. The virus went on to kill nearly 1,500 more people during the winter season in the Southern Hemisphere.
Adding further anxiety over the pending pandemic is the delay in the availability of an H1N1 vaccine. Production and distribution issues have caused only 45 million doses to be ready by mid-October instead of the expected 100 million. The regular flu shot will not protect against the swine flu, and even the swine flu vaccine currently in production hasn't completed its clinical trials. The CDC remains confident nevertheless that the finished H1N1 vaccine will be effective in preventing the spread of the virus.
While there is definitely cause for concern, the good news is that the swine flu virus has effects that virtually mirror the regular flu; the majority of people who contract it will recover without any form of medical intervention.
Those deemed most at risk are pregnant women; health care workers with direct patient contact, children aged six months to four years of age, caregivers for children less than six years old and anyone aged 5 to 18 with conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease.
Oddly enough, the elderly aren't on the list. The H1N1 strain so far as proven more harmful to those 25 and under; it is suspected that those 60 and over may have a partial immunity due to exposure to previous H1N1 strains.
You can avoid catching the flu by washing your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizers. Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze can also help you from inadvertently spreading the virus before you even realize that you've been infected. Those who become sick are urged to stay at home for 24 hours after any fever symptoms are gone.