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What is a Pandemic?

A pandemic is an outbreak of a new infection with global reach. Pandemics can be deadly – but they don’t have to be. It depends, in part, on whether people have immunity to the new virus. The three influenza pandemics in the 20th century were the “Spanish flu” in 1918-19, which may have killed half a million people in the United States, the 1957-58 “Asian flu,” which caused 70,000 deaths in the United States and the 1968-69 “Hong Kong flu” that caused about 34,000 deaths in the United States.

These numbers can be deceptive. Some 36,000 people die every year from the flu – the regular flu. It is not yet clear how deadly the current swine flu outbreak is or how much immunity people have to it. We have many reports of deaths, but we do not know how many people were infected and survived.

One mathematical model recently projected about 1,700 infections (not deaths) in about four weeks in the United States. That was a worst-case scenario, assuming no public health measures were taken. If public health measures were taken – as they are being taken – the model guessed the toll would be much lower.

By Shankar Vedantam  |  April 30, 2009; 5:46 PM ET
Categories:  Q & A  
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Next: Swine Flu -- or H1N1 Influenza A


On that scary line of thought look at these horrible numbers,but then Pharma's commercials are bread and butter of media these days, so these numbers wont ever get that kind of HYPE

• 7,000 deaths per year from medication errors in hospitals
• 12,000 deaths per year from unnecessary surgery
• 20,000 deaths per year from other errors in hospitals
• 80,000 deaths per year from nosocomial infections in hospitals
• 106,000 deaths per year from nonerror, adverse effects of medications. and the article in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society

Posted by: themikeb | April 30, 2009 10:48 PM | Report abuse

People die so don't worry about death.

Posted by: guez | May 1, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

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