Deaths Exceed Quarter Million for 2009 Swine Flu: Study

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A preliminary count of deaths from the 2009 swine flu epidemic might fall way short of the total, a new study claims. Researchers estimate there were more than a quarter of a million fatalities, more than 15 times the number officially reported. The estimate is especially sobering to individuals who went to extraordinary lengths to avoid exposure due to medical conditions like mine.

Scientists expect the new total from the H1N1 pandemic to be around 280,000 worldwide, Medical News Today reported on June 26. This contrasts with only 18,500 reported deaths. Officials consider a pandemic a medical event that occurs on a global versus smaller scale.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) led the swine flu study. Conclusions appeared in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Researchers produced an estimate of at least a quarter of a million after developing a new model. The new tool analyzed data from 12 nations. It suggested that 201,200 fatalities were respiratory deaths, while 83,300 were linked to cardiovascular issues.

Around 80 percent of the deaths occurred in swine flu patients younger than 65. Almost 60 percent were in Africa and Asia.

Exposure to the swine flu was a huge worry for immunosuppressed patients like me. In addition to Imuran, the immunosuppressant I had taken for years, I was also taking corticosteroids to further suppress my immunity during a flare of Crohn's disease.

The researchers pointed out that their results suggest how hard it is to get a handle on a pandemic while it's in progress. They cite a disproportionate number of deaths in lower-income countries to illustrate this. They attribute the low number of actual reported deaths due to difficulties in identifying fatalities caused by the pandemic and a lack of routine testing.

One of the more unusual facts about the H1N1 pandemic is that it occurred as the 2009 flu season was ending in the Northern Hemisphere, says the Mayo Clinic. It was designated a pandemic on June 11, 2009, the CDC indicates.

I was not eligible for the H1N1 vaccine once it was available. As drugs.com reports, patients taking Imuran must avoid live vaccines and those who have recently had them. My doctor firmly advised against getting any vaccines whatsoever after so many years of suppressed immunity.

During the pandemic, I worked in a municipal building. Cyclists and walkers from a nearby bike trail frequently used its restrooms. Even my everyday duties dealing with the public put me at serious risk for exposure. As a result, I reluctantly resigned.

The World Health Organization declared the pandemic over in August 2010. The illness had struck individuals in more than 200 countries. The estimate of more than a quarter of a million deaths for the 2009 swine flu outbreak is actually on target with annual seasonal flu fatalities, which range between 250,000 and 500,000 globally.

Vonda J. Sines has published thousands of print and online health and medical articles. She has a special interest in diseases and conditions that affect the quality of life.

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