SUMMARY: As H1N1 cases are heading downward across the country, the World Health Organization (WHO) says it is still too early to declare that the pandemic has peaked. While the flu appears to be waning in the United States and Canada, the evidence is not as apparent for Europe, where H1N1 deaths increased by 6 percent last week.
STORY LINK: http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/influenza/swineflu/news/dec0309who.html
ANALYSIS: We can hope the worst of H1N1 is behind us. However, projecting the future course of the virus is akin to predicting next week’s winning lottery numbers – highly speculative and of low reliability. It is illustrative to note that the oft-cited influenza pandemic of 1918-9 occurred in three waves over 18 months. While the current H1N1 strain has not developed the same level of mortality seen 90 years ago, it demonstrates similarities in its rapid spread, deep lung damage, and increased impact on a younger population compared to seasonal flu. Whether H1N1 resurges over the coming winter months or continues to fade away remains to be seen. The potential overall impact of influenzas of all types also remains an unknown. The flu season is just starting and a recent RAND Corporation survey shows that less than one third of adult Americans have received the vaccination for seasonal flu. While the message may be starting to sound old, the need for immunization, awareness, personal hygiene, and social (nonpharmaceutical) countermeasures remains.