Sept 25, 2009
In his Sept 16th presentation to the Institute of Medicine concerning the swine flu, Harvard professor Dr. Marc Lipsitch stated that “Barring changes in virus or host, we appear to be in a category 1 pandemic.”1 This welcome news comes on the heels of much controversy surrounding the soon-to-be-released H1N1 vaccine in the U.S. and is casting new light on the H1N1 epidemic’s severity. Although Lipsitch’s full presentation commentary was not immediately available online, Reuters reports Lipsitch as saying, “New estimates suggest that the death rate [of H1N1] compares to a moderate year of seasonal influenza.”2
Lipsitch is Professor of Epidemiology at Harvard University and studies, among other subjects, natural-host and vaccine immunity and “other public-health interventions on the population biology of pathogens and the consequences of changing pathogen populations for human health.”3 Lipsitch has studied a multitude of diseases including SARS and H1N1 and has focused research on infectious-disease analysis and pandemic response.
In an interview with Reuters, Lipsitch explains that it has become apparent only very recently that we are in a category 1 pandemic, which is the U.S. government’s lowest pandemic ranking and is comparable to any seasonal flu epidemic. Furthermore, Lipsitch has found that the disease is mildest in children, a statement that has many feeling great relief. Lipsitch calls this “one of the really good pieces of news in this pandemic,”4 certainly a truth that will have many parents breathing a bit easier.
Lipsitch tells Reuters that having new information about how many people were infected but did not become severely ill from the virus has given researchers new insight into what can be expected from this flu in its current form. With current death-rate estimates well below 1 percent, the quick spread of the virus earlier in the year and the lack of solid information from various countries may have made the epidemic look much worse than it actually was. In fact, Lipsitch is calling the pandemic very mild. "The news is certainly better than it was in May and even better than it was at the beginning of August." says Lipsitch.5
For more information on Dr. Marc Lipsitch, visit his Harvard faculty page.
Read the full article from Reuters: “Swine flu death rate similar to seasonal flu: expert”.
Read Mothering’s recent report on the swine flu vaccine.
1. Lipsitch, Marc, “Epidemiology of H1N1, Narrowing the Uncertainty," Sept 16, 2009, page 27. Accessed Sept 22, 2009. http://www.iom.edu/Object.File/Master/73/480/Lipsitch%20for%20WEB.pdf
2. Lipsitch, Marc, quoted in “Swine flu death rate similar to seasonal flu: expert,” by Maggie Fox, Sept. 16, 2009. Accessed Sept 22, 2009. http://www.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUSTRE58E6NZ20090916
3. Lipsitch, Marc, faculty page, Harvard School of Public Health. Accessed Sep 22, 2009. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/faculty/marc-lipsitch/
4. Lipsitch, Marc, quoted in “Swine flu death rate similar to seasonal flu: expert,” by Maggie Fox, Sept. 16, 2009. Accessed Sept 22, 2009. http://www.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUSTRE58E6NZ20090916
5. Lipsitch, Marc, quoted in “Swine flu death rate similar to seasonal flu: expert,” by Maggie Fox. Sept 16, 2009. Accessed Sept 22, 2009. http://www.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUSTRE58E6NZ20090916