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New Flu Pandemic Could Kill 81 Million
A flu virus as deadly as the one that caused the 1918 Spanish flu could kill as many as 81 million worldwide if it struck today, a new study estimates. By applying historical death rates to modern population data, the researchers calculated a death toll of 51 million to 81 million, with a median estimate of 62 million.
That's surprisingly high, said lead researcher Chris Murray of Harvard University. He did the analysis, in part, because he thought prior claims of 50 million deaths were wildly inflated.
"We expected to end up with a number between 15 and 20 million," Murray said. "It turns out we were wrong." ...The new work is published in Saturday's issue of the journal The Lancet.
Flu pandemic forecast to kill 62 million
Had a strain of influenza akin to that which caused the 1918 influenza pandemic emerged in 2004, researchers estimate it could have killed 62 million people worldwide.
The vast majority of deaths (96 percent) would have occurred in poor countries where "scarce health resources are already stretched by existing health priorities," report Dr. Christopher J. L. Murray, of Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts and colleagues in The Lancet medical journal.
Low-cost public health measures such as school closure, quarantine and masks could offer the most hope to countries without access to medical interventions. However, more study is needed to determine the true impact of these measures, Ferguson notes.
New flu pandemic could kill 81 million
One surprise in the new study was the huge variation in how different countries would be affected by a pandemic. The study estimates that 96% of the deaths would occur in the developing world. Murray and colleagues noted there was a 30-fold or more variation in mortality. ..."That tells us it's not just the genetic makeup of the virus that will cause deaths, but that there are a lot of other things that intervene," he said. ...Determining the mitigating factors might help avert a catastrophe. "If we can answer that question, we may unlock the mysteries behind which non-pharmaceutical strategies could significantly decrease mortality," said Murray.
...said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, coordinator of the World Health Organization's Global Influenza Program. "Speculating about the possible numbers is an interesting exercise, but the really important thing is, what do we do about it?"
...experts think that if H5N1 were to evolve into a strain easily transmissible between people, it would also become less deadly. ..."It's not in a virus' interest to kill its hosts so readily, otherwise it can't reproduce," said Dr. Ian Gust, a flu expert at the University of Melbourne, Australia. ...Still, there is no guarantee that H5N1 would become less deadly. ...If it doesn't, "we would be in for a devastating impact," said Gust. "All bets would be off."
Originally posted by soficrow
There is a graph showing that deaths occur in a "W" formation - high in infants and elderly on the outside, plus high in the middle - with lower death rates in ages 5-19 and 35-69 (roughly).
I don't have time now to upload and paste a copy - but will try to get to it in the next few days.
(It's based on studies of the 1918 flu pandemic.)