Will there be a third wave of the H1N1 pandemic?
It depends on whom you ask. Three out of the last four flu pandemics did occur in three waves. But according to an informal poll of flu experts by TIME magazine, only half said there would be another H1N1 wave this flu season.
Was the threat of H1N1 exaggerated?
The Novel H1N1 virus hasn’t infected as many people as some experts predicted. The Presidents Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, for example, estimated that up to one-half of the U.S. population could be infected with the virus and as many as 90,000 deaths could occur. Conversely, the Centers for Disease Control recently estimated that there have been 15,000 deaths and one-sixth of the U.S. population infected.
That said, I would argue that the threat of H1N1 wasn’t overblown. We’ve learned that unlike Seasonal Influenza, the Novel H1N1 Influenza Virus is more dangerous to children and young adults.
For example, the pediatric death rate from H1N1 is 10 times higher than that of Seasonal Flu. It’s more severe in pregnant women. A study of 94 pregnant and eight post-partum hospitalized women published in the New England Journal of Medicine this month revealed an 8 percent death rate.
The public response.
The vaccine is now readily available to the public. There have been more than 60 million doses of the various formulations of H1N1 vaccine administered in the U.S., with an estimated 40 percent of those doses administered to children. The adverse event rate has been no different then that of the Seasonal Flu vaccine.
National Influenza Vaccination Week was Jan. 10-16. Given the safety of the vaccine and the irrefutable benefits of vaccination to ourselves and our loved ones, we should all do our civic duty to stop the spread and get vaccinated.
Dr. Mark Tosca is a family practice physician at Kachina Family Practice (www.Kachinafamilypractice.com) and is writing about the flu monthly. For more information on the swine flu, visit www.cdc.gov or contact Tosca at firstname.lastname@example.org.