August 25, 2009

Fearsome swine flu could kill up to 90,000 Americans

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rita_hibbardwebEarly reports are that swine flu is going to hit big, killing 30,000 to 90,000 Americans, clogging intensive care units and causing up to 40 percent of the population to develop symptoms of the strain formally known as the H1N1 influenza virus, according to a report releleased by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

What makes this year’s flu especially fearsome is that it is killing middle-aged adults and adolescents. Typically, flu kills primarily the elderly and immune impaired, according to this report in the Los Angeles Times. Now, the White House council is calling this a “report,” not a “prediction.” That should make you feel a lot better.

Meanwhile, Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said today that massive closing of schools won’t solve the problem. Instead, vaccinations must be the first line of defense, she said. First doses of the vaccine are expected to be available in October.

“What we know is that we have the virus right now traveling around the United States,” Sebelius said in a nationally broadcast interview, this one reported in the Houston Chronicle. “And having children in a learning situation is beneficial … What we learned last spring is that shutting a school down sort of pre-emptively doesn’t stop the virus from spreading.”

— Rita Hibbard

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