Although the pandemic caused three years ago by the H1N1 influenza virus was declared over by the World Health Organization in August 2010, the “swine flu” is still circulating worldwide. According to an article published Monday in The Lancet, the virus might be a scarier public health concern than previously reported.
The report estimates that 284,500 deaths resulted from the 2009-2010 pandemic, 15 times higher than the number of laboratory-confirmed deaths reported by countries to the World Health Organization.
WHO’s number, according to The Lancet article, “is likely to be an underestimate because diagnostic specimens are not always obtained from people who die with influenza and the viruses might no longer be detectable by the time of death in some people.” The number of lab-confirmed flu deaths is known to be significantly lower than the number of flu deaths that actually occur, the study also states.
The results also showed that 80 percent of H1N1 deaths occurred in people younger than 65 years, while mortality rates from seasonal influenza are usually higher among the elderly.
“We hope that this work can be used not only to improve influenza disease burden modeling globally, but to improve the public health response during future pandemics in parts of the world that suffer more deaths, and to increase the public’s awareness of the importance of influenza prevention,” said lead author Fatimah Dawood of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.