Sunday 13 December 2009

Swine flu - a cause for cautious optimism?

In the UK, the swine flu pandemic is turning out to be less threatening than had originally been feared. Last week, there were 11,000 new cases – a reduction of half on the previous week. Back in July, there were predictions that we might be seeing 100,000 new cases every day.

There have been 283 deaths – just one for every four thousand people who catch the illness. The chief medical officer warned against complacency, though, and history would suggest rightly. The great flu pandemic of 1918 first appeared as a relatively mild illness, but then returned as the devastating killer of perhaps 70 million people.

Across the world, more than 7,800 people are known to have died of H1N1 after the figure leapt by 1,000 in a week. Most of the deaths have been in the American continents – more than 5,300.

Mutated strains have killed people in Norway and France, and these have been seen in four other countries, but overall most victims still suffer fairly mild symptoms. (See also my blogs of 30 April, 13 May, 6, 11 July, 24 Oct)

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