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Swine flu: Early findings about pandemic potential reported in new study
Date:5/11/2009

Early findings about the emerging pandemic of a new strain of influenza A (H1N1) in Mexico are published today in Science.

Researchers from the MRC Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling at Imperial College London, working in collaboration with the World Health Organisation and public health agencies in Mexico, have assessed the epidemic using data to the end of April. Their key findings are as follows:

  • The data so far is very consistent with what researchers would expect to find in the early stages of a pandemic.
  • The researchers' best estimate is that in Mexico, influenza A (H1N1) is fatal in around 4 in 1,000 cases, which would make this strain of influenza as lethal as the one found in the 1957 pandemic. The researchers stress that healthcare has greatly improved in most countries since 1957 and the world is now better prepared.
  • The epidemic of influenza A (H1N1) is thought to have started in Mexico on 15 February 2009. The data suggests that by the end of April, around 23,000 people were infected with the virus in Mexico and 91 of these died as a result of infection. However, the figures are uncertain for example, some mild cases may have gone unreported. The numbers infected could be as low as 6,000 people or as high as 32,000 people.
  • The uncertainty around the numbers of people who have been infected with influenza A (H1N1) in Mexico means that the case fatality ratio (CFR) of 0.4% (4 deaths per 1000) cannot be definitely established. The CFR is in the range of 0.3% to 1.5%, but at this stage the researchers believe that 0.4% is the most likely.
  • For every person infected, it is likely that there will be between 1.2 and 1.6 secondary cases. This is high compared to normal seasonal influenza, where around 10-15 percent of the population are likely to become infected. However, it is lower than would be expected for pandemic influenza, where 20-30 percent of the population are likely to beco
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Contact: Lucy Goodchild
lucy.goodchild@imperial.ac.uk
44-078-038-86248
Imperial College London
Source:Eurekalert

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