By Calvin Palmer
The World Health Organization says up to 2 billion people could be infected by the A(H1N1) virus, or swine flu for those less technically minded, if the current outbreak turns into a pandemic.
WHO has said it believes a global outbreak of swine flu is imminent and last week raised its alert to level five, one step short of a pandemic.
Acting head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Richard Besser said yesterday that he expects the swine flu outbreak to reach a pandemic level.
Assistant director-general for health security and environment at WHO, Keiji Fukuda, said that past experience with flu pandemics indicated one-third of the world’s population gets infected.
Fukuda said that with a world population of 6 billion, it is “reasonable” to expect 2 billion people to become infected.
He said WHO is unable to know what the future holds, and it is impossible now to say whether the pandemic would be mild or severe.
That is health speak for “I haven’t got a clue”.
It is also strange that Besser expressed a degree of certainty that the outbreak would reach a pandemic level, while Fukuda did not know what the future holds. Are they singing from the same hymn sheet?
For those of you keeping score, and I know how Americans like to accumulate statistics, the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. stands at 896 in 41 states, according to the CDC.
The most recent WHO figures show 1,893 cases reported in 23 countries. That leaves just 1,999,998,107 cases to go.
Mexico still tops the list for the number of deaths, with 42. The United States has two deaths but one of those was a boy who usually resides in Mexico City.
It is a moot point as to whether that death should be included in the total for Mexico.