WASHINGTON – SWINE flu could infect as much as half of the US population this fall and winter and cause up to 90,000 deaths, President Barack Obama’s science advisors warned on Monday.
Laying out a ‘plausible scenario’ for the epidemic’s impact in the United States, the report painted a grim picture of stress on the US health care system as it struggles to cope with a flood of flu patients.
The epidemic’s resurgence could ‘produce infection of 30-50 per cent of the US population this fall and winter, with symptoms in approximately 20-40 percent of the population (60-120 million people), more than half of whom would seek medical attention,’ the report said.
As many as 1.8 million people could be admitted to hospitals with up to 300,000 of them requiring treatment in intensive care units.
‘Importantly, these very ill patients could occupy 50-100 per cent of all ICU beds in affected regions of the country at the peak of the epidemic and could place enormous stress on ICU units, which normally operate close to capacity,’ it said.
The epidemic, it said, ‘could cause between 30,000 and 90,000 deaths in the United States, concentrated among children and young adults,’ it said.
That compares with 30,000 to 40,000 deaths from seasonal flu each year, mainly among people over age 65.
The report said the epidemic poses ‘especially high risks’ for people with pre-existing conditions such as pregnant women and patients with neurological disorders, respiratory impairment, diabetes or severe obesity.
It also mentioned Native Americans as being at risk from the swine flu. The flu’s resurgence could occur as early as September when the school term begins, and peak in mid-October.
But a vaccine against the A(H1N1) virus is only projected to be available in mid-October, and it will take vaccinated individuals several more weeks to develop protective immunity, the report said.
According to the latest official US figures, the 2009 swine flu strain has already killed 522 people in the United States and hospitalized almost 8,000 people since it emerged in Mexico at the end of April. — AFP