May 08, 2009

H1N1 flu outbreak may hit 1/3rd of world's population

Upto two billion people - one-third of the world's population - would be infected by the deadly Influenza A H1N1 flu human virus if the present outbreak turns into a full blown pandemic.

This is the World Health Organisation's official estimate made public for the first time on May 7 in Geneva.

The virus, which was isolated in Mexico around April 13, has already spread to 23 countries and has till now infected around 2,100 people and killed 42 others.

According to WHO's assistant director-general Dr Keiji Fukuda, the two billion estimate isn't a prediction "but that past experience with flu pandemics indicated one-third of the world's population gets infected".

Dr Fukuda said on Thursday night that with a world population of 6 billion people, "it's reasonable to expect that kind of infection tally".

He, however, said it is too soon to predict how many people would get seriously ill or die.

WHO had last week said a swine flu pandemic was imminent and raised its pandemic phase alert to phase 5, just one step away from a full fledged pandemic.

The medical journal `The Lancet' cited an article it published in 2006 recently which used data from the 1918-20 Spanish influenza pandemic to predict that the next global influenza pandemic would kill 62 million people, with 96% of the deaths occurring in low-income and middle-income settings.

Meanwhile, India continued to be free of infection with full-fledged health screening of passengers continuing in all its 21 international airports.

On Thursday, around 35,403 passengers were screened of which 6,009 passengers were from affected countries. Around 178 doctors and 87 paramedics have been deployed to man 70 counters at the 21 airports.

Two persons who disembarked at Bangalore airport have been referred to a identified health facility.

So far, samples of 24 persons have been tested and found negative for Influenza H1N1. Samples of two people - one from Hyderabad and the other from Jalandhar - along with the fresh samples from Bangalore are under testing at NICD and NIV.

As of now, no case has been reported in India.

Link: Original Article

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