Friday, September 30, 2005

WHO's afraid of H5N1?

In a followup to our previous Health Fact of the Day, the World Health Organization's Dick Thompson has come out with a statement saying that Dr. Nabarro's earlier claim of between 5 and 150 million deaths from the bird flu might be excessive.

"While he [Thompson] did not say the 150 million prediction was wrong, or even implausible, he reiterated that WHO considers a maximum death toll of 7.4 million a more reasoned forecast." (emphasis added; original source at ABCNews)

H5N1, the influenza strain responsible for all of this concern, currently has a mortality rate of about 50%. By contrast, the Spanish flu of 1918 had a mortality rate of no more than 5%; even so, it killed approximately 25 million people in its first six months.

Somehow, I'm still not comforted.

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