AIDigest Interactive Map of Suspected/Confirmed Swine Flu Cases – Current as of 0500 hrs EDT Apr 29th
As the number of suspected, probable, and confirmed cases of Swine Flu escalate around the world we are seeing the inevitable haggling over `the numbers’ that occurs when different sources apply different criteria for their reporting.
Depending upon who you ask, Mexico has either 7, 20, 159, or more than 300 Swine Flu Fatalities.
No, I’m not kidding.
After all of the hoopla of the past 6 days, with every news agency shouting 100+ fatalities . . . how do we get back to 7?
Last updated 14:20 29/04/2009
NUMBERS: While there have been more than 150 reported deaths from swine flu, the World Health Organisation has officially recorded only seven.
A member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has dismissed claims that more than 150 people have died from swine flu, saying it has officially recorded only seven deaths around the world.
Reports have put the likely death toll from the virus at 152, with Mexican officials confirming 20 deaths.
The number of cases under observation in Mexico alone has reportedly reached 1,614.
But Vivienne Allan, from WHO's patient safety program, said the body had confirmed that worldwide there had been just seven deaths - all in Mexico – and 79 confirmed cases of the disease.
"Unfortunately that (150-plus deaths) is incorrect information and it does happen, but that's not information that's come from the World Health Organisation," Ms Allan told ABC Radio on Wednesday morning.
If you read my post yesterday, Fluing Beneath The Radar, you saw this graphic from the CDC showing how few cases get laboratory confirmation during a disease outbreak.
As you can see, epidemiologists know that the total number of cases in any community is likely to be much higher than those that can be laboratory confirmed.
The question is always, how much higher?
And right now, we don’t know.
Testing for this new flu is still in its infancy. The CDC is working to get new test kits out to improve the `testing gap’, but these are custom made kits with new reagents.
It isn’t as if they could pull them off the shelf.
Testing in Mexico is, quite frankly, running days behind the media reports and government `estimates’.
Last night, in a news conference out of Mexico City, the Mexican Health Minister reportedly stated that they now had nearly 2,500 cases of severe pneumonia with 159 suspected deaths (but only 7 laboratory confirmed) and they are investigating another 150.
For now, I don’t think we can put much reliance on any of the numbers we are seeing.
None are likely to be correct.
Sure, the numbers give us some idea of how things are `trending’ . . . but that’s about all they do.
Even here in the United States, where the testing situation is much better, the numbers are lagging behind the reality (or at least, the perception).
In New York City yesterday we learned that there were `many hundreds’ of suspected swine flu cases, but at last count there were only 45 `confirmed cases’.
Two people in New York City have been hospitalised and "many hundreds" of schoolchildren were said to be sick with suspected swine flu as officials gave warning that deaths are likely.
While it is likely that some (perhaps many) of the ill children have the Swine Flu, without testing, we can’t know for sure.
For now, while I’m reporting the numbers as they are released by the press, I’m encouraging people not to put a lot of stock in them.
They are a moving target, constantly changing.
Press reports, even government announcements, are likely to be wrong or out of date by the time they appear. And as the number of suspected cases rises, our ability to test them all declines.
That is simply a reality that we must accept.