Thursday, August 27, 2009


DR FRIEDEN also distanced himself from some of the worst-case predictions outlined in the council's report, which included a 'plausible' estimate that between 30,000 and 90,000 people might die and up to 1.8 million might clog hospitals.

'Unfortunately, the media coverage of it was not nearly as balanced as the report itself,' Dr Frieden said.

'Everything we have seen in the US and everything we have seen around the world to date suggests that we won't see that kind of number if the virus doesn't change.' Because this virus is new, more people are susceptible to it and the World Health Organization has been predicting for months now that 2 billion people will likely become infected.

'We will do everything in our power to reduce the number of people who die,' Dr Frieden said.

But officials fear H1N1 could worsen as US schools start their fall terms. Dr Frieden fears there could be a rush of demand for vaccine if that happens.

'As people become sick or severely ill or die from flu we'll get an increased demand for the flu vaccine and that is one of the challenges we have,' he said.

The Health and Human Services department estimates only 45 million doses will be available by mid-October, with 20 million a week coming after that.

Asked about surveillance, Dr Frieden said that will be difficult, too. The new flu does not always show up on standard, on-the-spot flu tests given in doctor's offices.

Special tests to differentiate pandemic H1N1 from seasonal flu have been sent to every state health department but it will be impossible to test everyone with symptoms, the tests are not 100 per cent reliable, and there is not much point in testing everyone anyway, Dr Frieden said.

'Once flu is in the community most people with flu don't need to be treated,' he said. People at high risk of death or severe symptoms, such as pregnant women or people with asthma, need to be treated right away anyhow and it is not worth waiting to test them, he added. -- REUTERS

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