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Study reassesses severity of H1N1 threat

December 11, 2009
CAMBRIDGE, MA — According to a recent study conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and the Medical Research Council, the pandemic outbreak of the H1N1 influenza A (swine flu) virus may be less severe than previously anticipated, according to The Harvard Crimson.
Using data collected from the City of Milwaukee Health Department and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene from April to July 2009 and from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the researchers obtained a ratio of deaths to H1N1 cases, the story stated.
According to the story, the researchers determined two mortality rate estimates, with the higher measure reaching one death out of every 2000 cases, which is about four to 10 times less than initial projections.
Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and one of the study''s authors, said: "The overall message of this study is that, though individuals should still take cautions, the overall impact on our society is fortunately less severe than the upper end of what we thought was possible. It is important not to make an incredibly costly, large-scale response that would have been disproportionate to the scale of the threat. It was right to be cautious early on, but backing off slightly may be appropriate."
In light of the study''s findings, Soheyla D. Gharib, chief of medicine at Harvard University Health Services, feels it is possible that the CDC could downgrade the H1N1 virus'' threat level to seasonal flu status or to relax procedural guidelines, the story noted.
Gharib said: "But, until [the threat level is downgraded], Harvard will continue to follow CDC guidelines to manage the outbreaks on campus."
The study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), was published in the journal PLoS Medicine, the story added.
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