(Updated with reply to the first 2 comments):
As a medical doctor with many years of experience, and who has seen tens of thousands of flu or flu-like cases over the years, I wish to reassure the public that the individual risk from dying from H1N1 is very small.
While we should take certain personal precautions like washing hands before eating and keeping ourselves at least 5 feet from those coughing and sneezing, we should not panic as if the world is coming to an end..Unfortunately, that is the reaction of some .
Looking at the 8 thousand odd cases detected and with just slightly over 70 cases of death world wide (until this moment), the mortality is less than 1 %. Many cases are likely to be not reported, making the mortality rate even lower.
The noraml flu has a mortality of 1%, which makes this H1N1 flu even milder than the normal flu. If we take out the Mexican death cases, the mortality is even lower. (IN mexico, it was likely that because the virus was first generation virus , it is more virulent, and once it has passed through many bodies, the virus is becoming less virulent).
Why WHO issues the alert is that even though the disease is mild and mortality less than seasonal flu, this flu can spread easily and can cause a pandemic easily, . In the case of pandemic, even though the individual risk of dying is low, the aboslute number of people dying may be high. Say if 100 million people get the flu, and the mortality being 0.8%, then 800,000 people will die. That is why WHO is taking steps to try to control its spread. But tell me, how to prevent a flu from spreading,? It is almost impossible, it is almost like asking cats not to eat fish.
Another risk is that this H1N1 flu might combines with the virus of a bird flu and becomes a flu virus that can spread easily and KILL. SO far, there is no such evidence yet.
So, please do not be too unduly worried about this H1N1. Even if we contract it , it will be like the flu or common colds that we get 2 or 3 times a year on the average…It is defintely not like SARS, where only supportive treatment was available and the mortality is many many times this H1N1.
Klm, who is familiar to all those who read this blog, has brought up a very good question. What if you are the 1% if you get this flu? I choose to answer here because this is really a big concern.
Firstly, if we take out the Mexican cases (68 deaths in Mexica), the mortality is much lower — about 0.125%see below. (SO far only 7 cases of death outside Mexico, and mostly those with other associated medical conditions). But since we do not know exacttly why in Mexico , the mortality is higher, we have to include the Mexican cases in.
This is the latest from CDC, Atlanta:
Deaths: Global total of 75 – 68 in Mexico, five in U.S., one in Canada and one in Costa Rica. Officials said Canadian, U.S. and Costa Rican victims also had other medical conditions.
-Confirmed cases: WHO says 39 countries have reported more than 8,480 cases, mostly in U.S. and Mexico.
Based on the latest, including the 68 deaths in Mexico, the mortality is about 0.89%. ( 75 cases divided by 8480) This is about the risk of dying from any operation.
(Mexico has 2895 cases latest, so that makes 5585 outside Mexico, and mortality outside mexico is 7 deaths divided by 5585 = 0.125%)
Each year, seasonal flu kills many people (about 1% mortality), mainly those with weakened immune system. . Many of us are inflicted with seasonal flu each year, as travellers from the North and SOuthern hemisphere will bring back the seasonal strains here.
Each years, all over the world, tens of thousands also die from seasonal flu.
But we are not alarmed because most of us, who had flu, recovered. It is like driving cars. Each years, tens of thousands die in car accidents, but even if we drive every day to work , we are not alarmed by being at risk of dying from car accidents, because the chances are remote. It is those who have other associated medical conditions which weaken their immune system that are at risk of dying, just like the highlighted statement above from CDC.
But that is not to say that you would not be the one within the 0.89%. Lotteries are so difficult to strike, and yet every now and then , someone will strike. Air travel is safer than driving cars, and yet, once a while , people are killed in plane crashes,
What I am trying to say is that even though we may be the unlucky one, the chance sof being the unlucky one would not be greater in H1N1 than when we have the normal seasonal flu. Since most of us have flu one time and another and i believe all those who read this blog have all recovered from those flus (dead ones would not be able to read), chances of you dying from another flu is very very small.
In seasonal flu, those who perished, died from complications: secondary lung infections and pneumonia. If your health is average, your immune system is average, then i can safely bet you would not die from seasonal flu nor this H1N1 flu.
It is when your resistance are compormised, such as patients on immune suppression drugs, renal dialysis, patients weakened by other disease such as cancer, old people with poor immune resistance, the premature babies etc will die from the normal seasonal flu, or this flu, outside of Mexico. (The Mexico pattern where younger people died is still a mystery, but very likely to be due to the virulent first generation virus eliciting a strong immune reaction from those who died. This pattern is not seen now showing that the virulence of the virus is diminishing, and it has now act more like a common seasonal flu).
That is why WHO has advised the drug companies to stick to producing vaccines for the normal seasonal flus, because if not, more people will probably die from the seasonal flu rather than this H1N1 flu.
So while i cannot rule out totally whether you will be the 0.89% , chances are you will not die from it if you are an average person. 🙂