Centers for Disease Control puts the number of deaths at more than half a million: http://www.philly.com/philly/health/HealthDay666078_20120625_Pandemic_H1N1_Flu_Killed_Far_More_Than_Reported__Study.html?cmpid=138896554
The majority of deaths were in people under age 65, which differentiates it from normal flu, according to Dr. Marc-Alain Widdowson.
Fear of contagion is a good way to get a lot of people upset quickly, so medical experts and even the media have a tricky time reporting on it: public health is best protected by taking society-wide prophylactic measures, even though each individual person may be at little risk; but at the same time, credibility is undermined when we tell people to fear something that doesn’t end up being scary.
Most journalists and doctors try to balance these conflicting scenarios responsibly. But not me. I’m all about the fear.
For example, you may have heard of the Ebola virus, a hemorrhagic fever that kills 90-per cent of the people who contract it. Well, the good news is that a group of Canadians may have come up with a possible cure. The bad news is that it’s only worked on monkeys so far, and it only works if administered within a day of exposure: http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2012/06/18/cure_for_ebola_a_generation_of_kids_feared_the_deadly_virus_should_they_stop_now_.html And given that it takes 10 days for Ebola’s symptoms to appear…
Of course, Ebola is limited by geography. Its home range is the jungles of central Africa. There are no reports of it surfacing in Canada.
But hold on a second, before we start being rational, let’s ramp up the fear again. The Pentagon reports that all kinds of deadly diseases are being stored under lax conditions – just waiting for a terrorist to steal them: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/02/pentagon-looks-to-africa-for-next-bio-threat/
Or, instead of stealing viruses, maybe industrious terrorists will take their cues from a paper published in Nature magazine, and make their own: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/02/pentagon-looks-to-africa-for-next-bio-threat/
Scared yet? Oh, don’t be. The chance you’ll be infected with a genetically-engineered super flu next year is less than 60-per cent. If you’re still worried, consider adopting the Japanese bow instead of handshakes and wear one of these when you leave the house: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hazmat_suit
Oh, and don’t read this: http://standeyo.com/NEWS/08_Health/081125.biohazards.html Seriously, don’t. OK, well can’t say I didn’t warn you.