Flu Watch Dec. 11 – What Swine Flu ISN’T Doing this Week

New infections are way down this week to only about 480 reported by CDC-monitored labs, compared to 1,370 just the week before and 11,470 at the height of the epidemic. So that’s a drop of 65% in one week and a plummet of 96% from the height. Deaths are the same as last week at what appear to be about 70 (you can only eyeball the bar graph, the CDC doesn’t release exact figures), while hospitalizations appear to have been cut by about half. Remember that according to CDC estimates, about 257 Americans die of seasonal flu per day during flu season – which is what we’re in. Of course, the bar graphs show counted deaths versus estimated deaths so it’s not a completely apples-to-apples comparison.

Only 14 states still report widespread activity, although expect to see that go up again shortly as we’re about to enter the time of year when seasonal flu normally begins to hit hard. Finally, cases do continue to come in at above the epidemic threshold. I predicted last week that we might go endemic this week but not yet.

The American College Health Association’s latest weekly survey of CDC-defined “influenza-like illness” shows college campus cases are actually up 27% from the week before, but that’s from a low 4.1 cases per 10,000 students to 5.2. This would seem to indicate that the epidemic on campuses has now ended and that we’ve entered the endemic stage where we can expect numbers like these probably into March. Cumulatively, out of about 87,000 cases reported there have been only three deaths. There have probably been more deaths from goldfish swallowings at fraternity initiations.

The CDC also released a new estimate, that 50 million Americans have been infected, with more than 200,000 hospitalizations nearly 10,000 deaths. That’s just one death per 5,000 cases, yet as I’ve pointed out, that’s probably high considering that France’s estimate is one per 48,000 infections while Japan’s is one per 140,000. Either our health care system really is as bad as some claim or the CDC is playing fast and loose with the figures.

In any case, the CDC estimates that for seasonal flu it’s a death rate ranging from 417 – 1,667 so any way you look at it swine flu is vastly milder. And all of those 50 million Americans have essentially been inoculated against the seasonal flu. We’re in for a mild flu season, indeed. The only question is whether they CDC will ultimately admit it.