H1N1 Virulence Typical of Seasonal Flu

CANADA - The Western College of Veterinary Medicine reports, although the window of infection appears different, the virulence of the H1N1 flu appears typical of normal seasonal flus, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 22 June 2009
clock icon 3 minute read

Earlier this month the World Health Organization raised the influenza pandemic alert in relation to the H1N1 flu from phase 5 to phase 6, recognizing the world is now in the earliest days of an influenza pandemic.

Dr. John Harding, an associate professor with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon stresses a pandemic doesn't necessarily mean devastating mortality but rather reflects the number of countries and proportion of population infected.

Dr. John Harding-Western College of Veterinary Medicine

Conditions are much different today in 2009 than they were in 1918, just different social issues, end of the war, lack of penicillin, lack of hospital facilities so I really, in my opinion, don't think we'll ever see mortality like our forefathers saw back in 1918.

It is world-wide, there's no question, a growing number of people are infected with it but it remains really just a flu of more typical seasonal virulence.

The one characteristic which is different with this is that we're now seeing mortality extend beyond the traditional flu season.

That may indicate the strain is somewhat different but it also could be explained by just difference in the timing of the outbreak.

Typically flu season starts in the fall and runs for about six months through to the spring on a seasonal basis.

This particular H1N1 started in April and by rights we would see a normal six month course of infection so it should take us into the fall.

It'll be interesting to watch this over the summer to see whether it gets worse and again see whether things continue in the fall or whether this strain peters out in the fall and the next seasonal flu comes in.

Dr. Harding concedes it's too early to say but scientists will be watching with interest.

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