California Weekly Flu Deaths at 36, Worse Than 2009 Swine Flu Pandemic

California flu (Gregory Bull / Associated Press)
Gregory Bull / Associated Press

California reported 36 flu deaths for the week ending February 3, as the influenza pandemic is on track to be worse than the 2009 outbreak of swine flu.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) reported that for the first 14 weeks of the 2017-2018 flu season there have been 163 laboratory confirmed influenza deaths among patients in patients under 65 years old.

But the CDPH weekly death number may be drastically understated, because it does not collect data on seniors over 65. Despite being only 15 percent of the U.S. population, seniors over 65 account for 50 percent of the influenza-associated hospitalizations, and 64 percent of the deaths. Including another 255 estimated senior deaths, total California deaths attributed to the 2017-2018 flu season that began on November 1 could be about 320.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that the rate of new case acceleration for this year’s flu epidemic is now worse than the 2008-2009 swine flu pandemic, according to 2,800 doctors’ offices and emergency departments they survey.

The percentage of people with influenza-like illnesses that showed up at CDC clinics from this year’s H3N2 flu strain jumped to 7.1 percent, up from 6.6 percent for the prior week. The CDC expects the percentage will soon pass the 7.6 percent for the 2003-2004 H3N2 flu strain and is expected to pass the 7.8 percent for 2009-20010 H1N1 pandemic.

The CDC’s conservative estimates for the U.S. swine flu pandemic that officially lasted from April 12, 2009 to April 10, 2010 are 60.8 million clinically confirmed cases, 274,304 hospitalizations, and 12,469 deaths. The high-end estimates are about 50 percent more.

The estimated global swine flu pandemic respiratory deaths for the same 2009-2010 period range from 123,000 and 203,000.

The annual flu virus epidemics tend to infect about 15 percent of humans, cause between 3 million and 5 million cases of severe illness, and kill 250,000 and 500,000 people, according to the World Health Organization. The world’s worst recorded outbreak was the 1918 influenza pandemic, which killed 50 to 100 million people.

According to the John Hopkins School of Public Health, the 1918 influenza pandemic killed about 670,000 Americans.

Breitbart News reported that this year’s flu has been confirmed as a “cross-species virus.” The flu variant is believed to have originated in pigs in 2009, then spread to humans in 2011, and to dogs in 2015.

For the first seven years of H3N2 influenza in humans, there was only one clinically confirmed U.S. flu death in in 2012. But the current H3N2 pandemic flu strain has been killed over 1,000 adults and 53 children. The accelerating outbreak is expected to last until at least August.


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