June 9th, 2009

H1N1 Cases up, Lethality Down through June 2009

Posted at 9:00 AM ET

David Rains, FSA, MAAA, Managing Director and Practice Leader — Life, Accident & Health Specialty

The lethality of the H1N1 swine flu outbreak has declined over the past month. As of May 6, 2009, H1N1 had a lethality rate of 1.98 percent. This has fallen to 0.61 percent as of June 3, 2009.


Worldwide, 19,261 cases have been confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 120 confirmed fatalities. This does represent a substantial increase from the 1,516 confirmed cases and 30 confirmed fatalities less than a month ago. The number of WHO-confirmed cases of H1N1 swine flu has increased by a factor of nearly 13, and the number of fatalities has quadrupled. However, it is clear that lethality is not being allowed to keep pace with the number of people catching H1N1.

Most cases of H1N1 swine flu have been located in the United States: 10,053 cases. Mexico is next in WHO-confirmed cases (5,029), followed by Canada (1,530), Australia (501), Japan (385), and the United Kingdom (339). Most of the deaths, 97 out of 120, have occurred in Mexico. There have been 17 fatalities in the United States, three in Lebanon, two in Canada, and one in Costa Rica.

Click chart for larger version
Click chart for larger version

The WHO/media gap did narrow through the month of May. As of May 6, 2009, Wikipedia listed more than twice as many cases of H1N1 swine flu as the WHO - and more than three times as many fatalities. By June 3, 2009, the number of Wikipedia-reported cases of H1N1 was only marginally higher (less than 5 percent) than those confirmed by the WHO. The gap in reported deaths has narrowed, as well, with Wikipedia reporting 131 and the WHO reporting 120.

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