2009 swine flu death toll was 10 times higher than previous estimates

Washington: A team of researchers has estimated the global death toll from the 2009 outbreak of the H1N1 virus to be 10 times higher than the World Health Organization's count, which was based on laboratory-confirmed cases of this flu.

The study by researchers from more than 60 collaborators in 26 countries has suggested that the pandemic virus caused up to 203,000 respiratory deaths around the world.

"This study confirms that the H1N1 virus killed many more people globally than originally believed. We also found that the mortality burden of this pandemic fell most heavily on younger people and those living in certain parts of the Americas," lead author Lone Simonsen, PhD, a research professor in the Department of Global Health at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, said.

The World Health Organization (WHO), which funded this study, had reports of 18,449 laboratory-confirmed deaths from the 2009 flu pandemic, but that is widely regarded as a low number because it is based only on people with confirmed cases of H1N1.

This study shows that the actual death toll was much higher than the official count because most infected people never got an H1N1 lab test.

The study showed that the H1N1 virus, although not as lethal as the infamous Spanish flu virus, still represented a formidable foe-killing many more people around the globe than the original estimates.

The study is published in journal PLOS Medicine.

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