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New Flu Pandemic Could Kill 62 Million People

Researchers' analysis of 1918-1920 pandemic suggests that the toll would be highest in the developing world

FRIDAY, Dec. 22 (HealthDay News) -- An influenza pandemic similar to the one that occurred in 1918-1920 would kill 62 million people in just one year and strike poorer nations the hardest, according to a report published in the Dec. 23/30 issue of The Lancet.

Christopher Murray, M.D., Ph.D., of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., and colleagues used death registration data to calculate excess mortality during the 1918-1920 influenza pandemic and developed ordinary least squares regression models to estimate excess mortality during a hypothetical 2004 pandemic.

The researchers found that population mortality in the 1918 outbreak varied over 30-fold across 27 nations and was highest in poorer countries. They estimated that a similar pandemic in 2004 would have killed 62 million people (10th-90th percentile range 51-81 million), 96 percent of them in the developing world.

"So what can be done to mitigate the depressingly familiar wealth-related distribution of disease burden predicted by Murray and colleagues?" asks the author of an accompanying comment. "Access to vaccines, antivirals and antibiotics for the most vulnerable populations is clearly part of the solution."

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