July 24, 2009

Swine Flu Could Infect Up To 40 Percent Of Americans

Up to 40 percent of Americans could be infected with the swine flu virus over the next two years, according to new estimates from the CDC.

The US plans to have about 160 million doses of swine flu vaccine on hand in October. Testing on the vaccines is set to begin soon.

The infection rate estimates show that the number of people infected by swine flu would double the number of people with normal seasonal flu. Data implies that while about 36,000 people die from flu during a normal season, that figure could grow from 90,000 to more than a hundred thousand.

With the development and release of the vaccine, the infection rate would be likely to fall.

The new estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are based on figures from a 1957 flu pandemic, which resulted in the deaths of 70,000 Americans.

"Hopefully, mitigation efforts will have a big impact on future cases," CDC spokesman Tom Skinner told the Associated Press.

In June, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that a global pandemic of the H1N1 virus was underway. As a result, it raised the global pandemic alert level to Phase 6, due to the spread of the virus, not the rate of morbidity, said the CDC.

The swine flu is estimated to have infected more than 1 million people in the US, with more than 302 deaths and 44,000 reported cases, according to the CDC. Many cases are likely to go unreported because they only cause mild symptoms.

"The spread of this virus continues, if you see 160 out of 193 WHO member states now have cases, so we are nearing almost 100 percent but not quite yet," WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said on Friday.

"We don't know how the virus will change going forward," he said.

"There are many questions to which we don't have the answer."


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