New CDC Estimates Show Number of Cases Surged in the Fall; Toll Is Particularly Heavy for Adults Under Age 64
By BETSY MCKAY
Approximately 47 million Americans, or about one in six people in the U.S., were sickened with swine flu from April to mid-November and 9,820 of them died, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday, indicating the new virus spread widely before cresting last month.
The new numbers reflect a substantial increase in illnesses between mid-October and Nov. 14, as a fall wave peaked and then began to decline. About 213,000 people were hospitalized during the period, about the same amount as in a normal flu season, the CDC said.
The CDC estimated in November that as of Oct. 17, 22 million people had been ill and 3,900 had died. A small portion of the difference between the old and new estimates was due to corrections for late reporting, the CDC said.
Nonelderly adults and children made up the vast majority of illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths from April through November, reflecting the heavier-than-usual toll this virus has taken on the young. "Many times more children and younger adults, unfortunately, have been hospitalized or killed by H1N1 influenza than during a regular flu season," said CDC Director Thomas Frieden.
With 85 million doses of H1N1 vaccine made available for ordering since October, many states have stopped limiting doses to high-priority patients such as pregnant women and children and started offering them to the general population. That means more vaccine should become available through outlets such as clinicians and retail pharmacies, and the CDC has started offering the vaccine to its employees, Dr. Frieden said.
He urged people to seek an inoculation and said he plans to get a nasal spray vaccine in a few days. "We're at the beginning of December. Flu season lasts until May. And we don't know what the future will bring in terms of H1N1 influenza," he said.
"We know that the more people who get vaccinated, the lower the likelihood there will be additional cases or a third wave," he said.
While pediatric hospitalizations and deaths have drawn a lot of attention, adults under age 64 appear to have suffered worse. About 16 million children became ill, but their death rate was lower than those of nonelderly adults and seniors, according to the CDC data.
About 71,000 children were hospitalized and 1,090 died from April to Nov. 14. About 27 million adults between the ages of 18 and 64 were sick with H1N1 flu, 121,000 were hospitalized, and 7,450 died.
Four million people ages 65 and older are estimated to have been ill, with 21,000 hospitalized and 1,280 deaths.
Still, the death toll on the young was higher than with seasonal flu. Fewer than 1,000 people under the age of 50 die from flu in a normal season, Dr. Frieden said. The comparisons aren't exact, because the CDC calculates deaths from seasonal flu differently, he cautioned. About 90% of the estimated 36,000 people who die annually from the seasonal flu are elderly, according to the CDC.
Write to Betsy McKay at email@example.com