October 9, 2009

H1N1: Health Officials No Longer Keeping Count

Health officials have stopped counting the number of swine flu cases around the world, stating that they have a good grasp on how the pandemic is moving.

However, some experts say that by refusing to come up with a legitimate number of swine flu cases, officials are failing to note how the virus has an impact on certain parts of the population.

According to the Associated Press, health officials in the US stopped counting the number of swine flu cases in the country in July, when it was estimated that more than 1 million people had been infected.

The counting method relied on lab tests, but many experts said those tests were not doing enough to provide the real number of infections because many people have been infected with the virus without seeking medical attention.

Officials in other parts of the world have also stopped taking score.

But Andrew Pekosz, a flu expert at Johns Hopkins University, told the AP that by refusing to take count of swine flu cases, officials are failing to gather an accurate depiction of how the virus may be more deadly in certain groups of the population.

Based on the information they do hold, officials say that the swine flu appears to be more deadly among children, young adults and pregnant women. However, this estimate becomes harder to pin down once the officials stop counting.

"This wasn't as critical early on, when case numbers were low," said Pekosz.

Dr. Zack Moore, from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, told the AP that officials' attempt to count the actual number of swine flu cases was doomed from the start because many people who were infected were never tested.

"It was a vast underestimate," said Moore.

"The kinds of numbers you were getting later in the summer were different from the numbers early on," Dr. Daniel Jernigan, deputy director of the CDC's influenza division, told the AP.

"We're concerned folks are focused on the numbers and missing that influenza is monitored by looking at trends," Jernigan said.

"The fact that it is a challenge to come up with these data proves that we have underdeveloped surveillance systems in this country," said Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America's Health.


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