Dec. 10, 2009 - H1N1 swine flu killed 10,000 Americans, sent 213,000 to the hospital, and sickened 50 million -- a sixth of the population -- by mid-November, the CDC estimates.
The CDC's new estimates reflect a flood of new cases from mid-October to mid-November, as the current wave of the U.S. flu pandemic was climbing to its peak. The numbers represent the middle of a range of estimates made using statistical calculations to correct for underreporting of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
"Sadly, there were nearly 10,000 deaths: 1,100 in children and 7,500 among young adults," CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, said at a news conference. "That is much higher than we would see in a usual flu season. This is a flu that is much harder on young people and that has largely spared the elderly."
The new estimates suggest that about 15% of the population -- one in six Americans -- has had the H1N1 swine flu.
"That leaves most Americans not infected or vaccinated and still susceptible to H1N1 flu," Frieden said. "Even if there were a lot of infections without symptoms and adding in those who have been vaccinated, that still leaves a lot of people unprotected. Only time will tell what the future will hold -- but the more people who get vaccinated, the lower the probability of a third wave of the pandemic."
The estimates suggest that there may have been as many as 13,930 deaths and 67 million flu cases from the beginning of the epidemic in April to Nov. 14. Here's the CDC's breakdown according to age:
Estimated Range *
~12 million to ~23 million
~19 million to ~38 million
65 years and older
~3 million to ~6 million
~34 million to ~67 million
~51,000 to ~101,000
~87,000 to ~172,000
65 years and older
~15,000 to ~29,000
~154,000 to ~303,000
~790 to ~1,550
~5,360 to ~10,570
65 years and older
~920 to ~1,810
~7,070 to ~13,930
H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccination Widens
The U.S. H1N1 swine flu vaccine supply continues to grow. The federal government has now shipped 85 million doses to states. Many states have begun offering the vaccine to anyone who wants it; others have expanded eligibility to include most residents.
One of those states is Georgia, where the CDC is based. Frieden said that all CDC personnel will now be asked to get the vaccine.
"I will get vaccinated using the nasal spray in the next few days," Frieden said. Frieden turns 50 next year, and the nasal spray vaccine is approved only for healthy people age 2 to 49.
American Indians, Alaskan Natives Hit Hard by H1N1 Swine Flu
American Indians and Alaskan natives are four times more likely to die if they get the H1N1 swine flu, the CDC today reported. The report comes from 12 states representing about half of the U.S. native population.
The fourfold risk of severe disease is similar to the increased risk seen among indigenous populations in other parts of the world.
It's not clear why native Americans are more susceptible to severe H1N1 swine flu. However, diabetes and asthma are more prevalent in this population than among all other racial and ethnic populations in the U.S.
And American Indians and Alaskan natives suffer the highest poverty rate in the U.S.: 30%. This suggests that delayed access to medical care and poorer nutrition may contribute to flu susceptibility.
The CDC report appears in the Dec. 11 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
22% of Americans Would Travel if Sick With Flu
It's impossible to predict the future, but a new Harvard poll suggests that many Americans may be giving an unwanted holiday gift to their countrymen: the flu.
That, of course, flies in the face of CDC recommendations, which call for people to stay home if they're sick.
The poll, conducted in a national sample of Americans from Nov. 12-18, shows that about half of Americans are worried that they or their families will get sick if they travel by airplane this year.
The poll suggests the other half of us should worry, too.