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Swine Flu Fatality Rate a 'Little Bit' Higher Than That of Seasonal Flu
Date:5/18/2009

But U.S. health officials say the disease is no more dangerous than regular flu

MONDAY, May 18 (HealthDay News) -- While most cases of swine flu continue to be no worse than seasonal flu, the death rate from the new H1N1 virus is slightly higher than that seen with seasonal flu, U.S. health officials said Monday.

"Our best estimate right now is that the fatality [rate] is likely a little bit higher than seasonal influenza, but not necessarily substantially higher," Dr. Anne Schuchat, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's interim deputy director for science and public health program, said during an afternoon teleconference.

In addition, unlike seasonal flu, which typically strikes hardest at the very young and the elderly, the new H1N1 swine flu is largely affecting children, teens and young adults, with more hospitalizations of younger people, Schuchat said.

"The hospitalizations that we are tracking have this disproportionate occurrence among younger persons," she said. "That's very unusual to have so many people under 20 requiring hospitalization in some of those intensive-care units."

Schuchat added that the spread of the swine flu is far from over and could continue through the summer. "H1N1 is not going away, despite what you've heard," she said.

The heat and humidity of summer months are less conducive to the spread of influenza virus, Schuchat said. "This is certainly a possibility -- it's not something I can predict. Most years, the seasonal influenza strains have very reduced circulation in the summer months. Unfortunately, we don't know if we are going to get a break this summer with this [H1N1] virus."

An assistant principal at a New York City public school Sunday night became the sixth person in the United States to die from the disease that was first identified last month.

Health officials said Sunday that the death was not surprising, beca
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