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Swine flu 'less lethal than feared'

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Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson claims the swine flu pandemic is ‘considerably less lethal’ than feared, but has warned this should not be an excuse for ‘inaction’.

Figures show that the death rate from the disease is lower than 0.1%, with 26 fatalities for every 100,000 cases in England.

The research, published online in the journal British Medical Journal analysed data for up to November 8.

It noted that swine flu symptoms were experienced by about 1% of the population in England, of which 0.026% died.

Death rate was estimated to be lowest among children aged five to 14 (11 deaths per 100,000 population) and highest among those aged over 65 (980 per 100,000).

Sir Liam wrote: “The first influenza pandemic of the 21st century is considerably less lethal than was feared in advance.”

He said that the low death rates were “fortunate”, but did not make a case for “inaction”. The NHS had rightly vaccinated at-risk groups such as pregnant women and those with heart conditions and diabetes, the report added.

Sir Liam concluded that “improvements in nutritional status, housing and health care availability” might explain the low death rates compared to previous pandemics.

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