Swine flu likely claimed quarter of a million lives: study

June 26, 2012

The A(H1N1) "swine flu" 2009 pandemic probably claimed over a quarter of a million lives -- 15 times more than the 18,500 reported, a paper in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal said Tuesday.

The elevated toll underlined the need for better planning and vaccine distribution, said a team of epidemiologists and physicians who made a statistical model based on population and infection estimates to present what they believe is a more accurate picture of the pandemic's reach.

"This study is one of the first to provide a global estimate of deaths caused by the 2009 H1N1 virus," lead author Fatimah Dawood of the US government's told AFP in an email exchange.

"Unlike most other mortality estimates for the 2009 pandemic, this study includes estimated mortality for countries in southeast Asia and Africa where surveillance data on influenza-associated mortality are limited."

Some 18,500 deaths had been reported to the (WHO) from confirmed laboratory test results, but the international researchers believe this number to be a gross underestimation.

They wrote that "... diagnostic specimens are not always obtained from people who die with influenza and the viruses might no longer be detectable by the time of death in some people."

The team estimated there were 284,500 deaths from in the 12 months from April 2009. But the figure may be as high as 575,400, they said.

Between 250,000 and 500,000 people die of seasonal influenza every year, according to the WHO.

In the flu 2009 season, H1N1 was the "predominant virus", said Dawood.

But comparing the numbers alone did not yield an accurate picture, she stressed, as 80 percent of swine flu victims were younger than 65, while the yearly seasonal flu mainly tends to claim older victims.

The researchers said 51 percent of swine flu deaths was estimated to have occurred in southeast Asia and Africa, which account for 38 percent of the world's population.

The team hoped the work would help improve planning and surveillance, as well as boost vaccine production and delivery, especially to Africa and southeast Asia, ahead of future pandemics.

Dubbed swine flu, the virus affected some 214 countries and territories after it was uncovered in Mexico and the United States in April 2009.

The WHO declared it a pandemic in June that year. It was declared over in August 2010.

A WHO-appointed group of experts last year published a damning report on the UN health agency's handling of the pandemic, saying that it failed to issue timely guidance and that its flu plans needed revision.

The Council of Europe accused the agency of causing unjustified scares and a waste of public money as countries scrambled to buy vaccines.

Explore further: Two die of A(H1N1) swine flu in Mexico: official

Related Stories

Two die of A(H1N1) swine flu in Mexico: official

January 22, 2012
An outbreak of A(H1N1) swine flu claimed the lives of two people -- 19 and 21 years old -- in Mexico's capital in the first weeks of the year, health authorities said Saturday.

Mexico toll hits nine from A(H1N1) swine flu

January 23, 2012
The death toll in Mexico from an outbreak of A(H1N1) swine flu has hit nine, with 573 cases detected, officials said Sunday.

Mexico health sec: Swine flu way up after low year

January 31, 2012
(AP) -- Mexico's federal health secretary says swine flu cases in January have surpassed the number for all of 2011, a year when the virus barely appeared worldwide.

Recommended for you

Google searches can be used to track dengue in underdeveloped countries

July 20, 2017
An analytical tool that combines Google search data with government-provided clinical data can quickly and accurately track dengue fever in less-developed countries, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

MRSA emerged years before methicillin was even discovered

July 19, 2017
Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) emerged long before the introduction of the antibiotic methicillin into clinical practice, according to a study published in the open access journal Genome Biology. It was ...

New test distinguishes Zika from similar viral infections

July 18, 2017
A new test is the best-to-date in differentiating Zika virus infections from infections caused by similar viruses. The antibody-based assay, developed by researchers at UC Berkeley and Humabs BioMed, a private biotechnology ...

'Superbugs' study reveals complex picture of E. coli bloodstream infections

July 18, 2017
The first large-scale genetic study of Escherichia coli (E. coli) cultured from patients with bloodstream infections in England showed that drug resistant 'superbugs' are not always out-competing other strains. Research by ...

Ebola virus can persist in monkeys that survived disease, even after symptoms disappear

July 17, 2017
Ebola virus infection can be detected in rhesus monkeys that survive the disease and no longer show symptoms, according to research published by Army scientists in today's online edition of the journal Nature Microbiology. ...

Mountain gorillas have herpes virus similar to that found in humans

July 13, 2017
Scientists from the University of California, Davis, have detected a herpes virus in wild mountain gorillas that is very similar to the Epstein-Barr virus in humans, according to a study published today in the journal Scientific ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

PeterD
not rated yet Jun 27, 2012
More nonsense to help sell their next useless vaccine.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.