Healthcare News & Insights

H1N1 toll: 57 million ill, nearly 12k dead….and still counting

It may have finally slowed down, but there’s no debating that the H1N1 virus took a heavy toll on the American health care system.

New figures from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicate that more than 57 million Americans became ill from the virus. Of those, more than 246,000 had to be hospitalized — and nearly 11,700 died.

Health officials haven’t formally declared the pandemic over yet, but all signs indicate that while the virus is still spreading, fewer people are getting sick from it. Chalk that up to a late-blooming, but largely effective, vaccination program — as well as a large number of people who now have post-infection immunity to the virus.

The latest figures also confirm that H1N1 had a significantly more severe effect on younger, healthier people than the “typical” flu virus. Of the 246,000 hospitalized, 82,000 were younger than 18; another 150,000 were between 18 and 64. Typically, the majority of hospitalizations due to influenza are in those over 65.

Death rates were equally skewed: In an average year, 90% of influenza deaths are among those over age 65. With H1N1, roughly 10% of the deaths were among those 17 or younger; nearly 73% were among those aged 18 to 64.

Most of the strains this past year were H1N1 strains, and not strains that cause seasonal influenza.

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