Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The swine flu of 2009 killed about 284,500 people, mainly concentrated in South-east Asia and Africa, with a total death toll of at least 15 times more than the figures from the laboratory tests used at the time of the pandemic. This is shown by a study published by the prestigious Lancet magazine based in London and specialized in the field of medicine, according to which the number of casualties could even have been as high as 579,000. At first, the number of deaths from swine flu established by the World Health Organisation (WHO) stood at 18,500. These were deaths related to the virus recognized by laboratory tests, which the same international organization at the time called a "gross underestimate" because of the failure to count allo those persons - living in poor or remote areas - who did not have access to health care and because 'H1N1' is not always traceable."
The new study also shows that the impact of the pandemic has varied greatly depending on the region, with 51% of deaths from swine flu concentrated in Africa and South-East Asia. These two areas alone are home to about 38% of the world's population and showed a greater incidence of disease.
For experts the new estimate is a confirmation of how dangerous the disease is, which did not claim more victims only because it didn't strike older people. Among the reasons, the researchers warn, is the fact that the older segement of the population was protected because in the past they had contracted a very similar virus, for which their body had developed the appropriate defenses.
Dr. Fatimah Dawood, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and author of the study, said that "this pandemic really did take an enourmous toll" of victims. And she added the importance of the delivery of vaccines in the areas hardest hit by the virus. The first case was registered in Mexico in March 2009 then, after reaching California, it spread around the world, generating fear and panic. In June of that year, experts declared the pandemic, with H1N1 present in 74 countries worldwide.
The data shows that 80% of the victims of Influenza A were below the age of 65, while the classical seasonal influenza causes more deaths among the elderly, with a figure that hovers between 80 and 90% of the deaths. Last year a group of experts convened by the WHO developed a study, from which emerged the mismanagement of the pandemic on the part of the UN World Health Organization, which was unable to develop proper guidelines and whose plan to fight the pandemic was insufficient. In contrast, Europe has accused the agency of having provoked an unjustified alarm and of having caused the unnecessary waste of huge amounts of money in the purchase of vaccines.