So how bad was the H1N1 pandemic?

According to a new paper in PLoS Medicine, Marc Lipsitch's modelling estimates that among persons with symptomatic H1N1:
  • 1 in 70 required hospital admission
  • 1 in 400 required ICU care
  • 1 in 2,000 died
With data in hand, he argues in an NPR piece that this is a very mild pandemic. Not so, says Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the CDC. An expert in risk communication speculates that CDC is avoiding describing the pandemic as mild out of fears that vaccine uptake will fall.


  1. This data is from April to July 2009. I suspect it has been even milder in the fall so far. Interestingly, these estimates are far below the ones given by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology which estimated a death count between 30,000 and 90,000; Marc Lipsitch was on that panel. As far as the CDC response, I agree people should be vaccinated, but to suggest this is something more than a "mild" pandemic flies in the face of what people see and they will easily determine that CDC is being less than honest with them. Perhaps a better plan would be to give them other reasons to be vaccinated - a third wave perhaps?


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