Up to half of the population of the U.S. could come down with the swine flu and 90,000 could die this season, according to a dire report from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
[...]"It's a plausible scenario that we need to be prepared for," said Marty Cetron, the Center for Disease Control's director of the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine.
The report says that under a worst-case scenario, between 60 and 120 million Americans could get sick with the swine flu and another 30 million could contract the virus but not show symptoms. Between 30,000 and 90,000 could die -- more than twice the annual average of deaths associated with the seasonal flu. Those deaths generally occur in people older than 65.
It should be noted that swine flu eruptions continue throughout the northern hemisphere, despite the onset of summer weather, which usually mitigates flu outbreaks.
So we're looking at a highly contagious, highly infectious disease that shows signs of only strengthening as people are forced into closer contact behind closed doors.
Keep in mind that a far larger percentage than normal of those getting ill with this flu will be younger, healthy adolescents and young adults. It's not clear if the same hiccup in the affected age will trend in the death statistics. One presumes that a healthy adult will be in a far better position to fight off a bug than the elderly, very young, or infirm.
The 1918 flu pandemic saw an unusual spike in young adults precisely because of the nature of that virus (more avian than swine) and possibly because it was similar to another flu outbreak 30 years earlier.
With swine flu and avian flu currently exposed to one another in the southern hemisphere, it would be prudent to follow this story a bit more closely than current surveys indicate it has been.
It could be ugly. It might not be. My guess is it will be uglier than the CDC and HHS are making it out to be, particularly once the vaccine runs low.