Influenza Pandemic of H1N1 Killed More Americans

Influenza pandemic H1N1 killed more Americans

A new analysis of the death toll of the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic had killed more Americans than other parts of the world and the death toll was much higher than was thought.  Researchers figure it was about 203,000 deaths world-wide, but possibly twice more than that if a person counted those who had complications due to the H1N1 influenza virus, such as heart problems.  At first the WHO commission was ridiculed for not announcing the pandemic earlier, although they had problems figuring out how to tell the public properly and not cause a panic.

One thing that many people may not know about was that the H1N1 influenza was quite variable across the world.  The symptomology and complications were not the same from country to country.  Thus, some countries like the U.S. were hit much harder than others were.  Another interesting point to make, is how closely related this virus was to the pandemic of  1918, and those that were exposed to that virus seemed to have less of a reaction to the new H1N1 pandemic influenza breakout as well.   So it does seem that younger people who were not exposed to the older virus were hit harder, but researchers say that it is not a true and total explanation of the variance between the two flu viruses.

So nobody knows exactly why Americans were hit harder than Europeans, and it can not be explained whether there was better health care in one place to another either.  Sadly, due to such a variance in difference from how each country was hit by the H1N1 pandemic, it gave many health officials a false feeling of thinking that this virus was not going to be as bad as they thought.

The hardest hit populations in the U.S. were young healthy children, young adults, teenagers and especially pregnant women.  Dr. Mounts, from WHO’s Global Influenza Program said that the biggest impact was the years of life lost, showing how much the younger population was more affected than others.  While statistics say that the numbers were not significantly different compared to basic seasonal flu deaths, although researchers know they need to keep in mind the population age differences in who was affected the most.

Usually when deaths occur due to seasonal flu it hits elderly groups of 65 years and older by 80 percent.  The H1N1 pandemic hit those younger than sixty-five by 62 percent to 85 percent.  Researchers and doctors say a flu death is just not a flu death, especially when it comes down to years of life lost from younger populations.

Researchers found that the mean death for the H1N1 pandemic was 40 and during 2009 the life expectancy was about 79 years of age.  It is one thing that a 78-year-old person dies from flu complications, but to lose a perfectly healthy pregnant 22-year-old woman has a great impact on society.  The H1N1 pandemic virus did not outright kill people either, in many cases it was due to secondary complications like pneumonia. So in other words, researchers are still trying to figure out why the pandemic of H1N1 influenza killed more Americans than other countries and it looks like it could be quite a long while before they put the final pieces together.

By Tina Elliott

 

WAMC

CKOM

CIDRAP

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