Swine flu: keep perspective over death

16 June 2009

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© iStock/Eraxion

In an article for The Telegraph (16 June 2009), Professor Angela McLean, co-Director of the Institute for Emerging Infections, explains that statistically, swine flu is still following patterns of previous influenza epidemics. Although Europe's first death from H1N1 swine flu was a horrible tragedy for the family of the pregnant woman who died, an examination of the statistics for confirmed cases of swine flu and subsequent deaths reveals few surprises.

So far, there have been 1,320 confirmed cases of swine flu in the UK. In the United States, there have been 17,855 confirmed cases and 45 deaths – amounting to one death for each 400 confirmed cases. By that count, one death in the UK is not unexpected. Nor is it a surprise that pregnant women should be at particularly high risk – that pattern occurs in seasonal influenza and in previous influenza pandemics. Seven in ten of those admitted to hospital in the US had an underlying health condition, like asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes or, indeed, pregnancy.

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