Panel: Swine flu could infect half of U.S. this year

It's beginning to look like swine flu could infect half of the U.S. population this fall and winter, put as many as 1.8 million people into the hospital and cause as many as 90,000 deaths, or more than double those that happen in a standard flu season. These are just some of the more worrisome conclusions reached by a presidential panel tasked with assessing the government's response to the first flu pandemic in 41 years.

According to the panel's report, the virus could cause symptoms in as many as 60 million to 120 million people, more than half of whom might seek medical attention, according to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. While few victims would get seriously ill, as many as 300,000 people might require intensive care, potentially tying up all ICU beds in some parts of the country when the flu peaks, they concluded.

Usually, the seasonal flu leads to 30,000 to 40,000 deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations per year, but experts are predicting that the numbers will be higher with the H1N1 virus, as fewer people have immunity to it.

To learn more about the report:
- read this piece from The Washington Post

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