It’s January. February is just around the corner. And the traditional flu season is yet to come. But we have new swine flu numbers and estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, and they are a little startling.
The CDC estimated Friday that between 39 million and 80 million Americans have had the swine flu, and 8,000-16,000 of them have died from it. The numbers, from a report on CNN.com, are rough because many people with the flu don’t go to the doctor, and of those who do, not everyone is tested.
On the same day, the WHO, which is the United Nations’ reporting health agency, said that the death toll at this point is at least 13,554, That’s up 755 from the week before. The organization attributes at least 7,016 of those deaths to the Americas, and 2,788 to Europe.
And an Associated Press story cites two government phone surveys done in December and early January as showing that about one in five Americans has been vaccinated against the swine flu. That’s a total of about 60-66 million. From the story:
“One spokesman from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the numbers are good, considering that it was a hurried campaign against a novel flu virus using a vaccine that did not become available to the public until early October, and then, only in limited supplies.
"From our point of view, this looks very successful," said Richard Quartarone, the spokesman.
“The report backs up a rough estimate used by health officials in recent weeks that more than 60 million Americans had been vaccinated.
“It also shows that vaccination rates were a bit higher for people deemed to be especially vulnerable to the new influenza, including children, pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions.”
Right now, the swine flu seems to have calmed down. No states are reporting wide outbreaks, and it seems like we’re only getting isolated reports now of people who are sick.
So why are we writing about this now?
Because the traditional flu season is upcoming. Infection rates for the flu always soar in the late winter and early spring.