Rather than work together and craft an effective and proportional response to the current corona virus epidemic the political class and unfortunately the news media as well, are using this as an opportunity to attack the opposing side. I thought it would be helpful to compare the progression and response of this epidemic to the swine flu of 2009. Most of the information was extracted from the CDC website.
While the swine flu (H1N1) epidemic of 2009 turned out to have a low mortality rate compared to other influenza outbreaks, early on there was little way of understanding that but it was quickly identified as highly contagious.
2009 H1N1 was first detected in the United States in April 2009. Infection with this new influenza A virus (then referred to as ‘swine origin influenza A virus’) was first detected in a 10-year-old patient in California on April 15, 2009.
CDC on April 18, 2009, under the International Health Regulations (IHR) the United States International Health Regulations Program reported the 2009 H1N1 influenza cases to the World Health Organization (WHO). The cases also were reported to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Canada and Mexico, as part of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.
By April 21, 2009, CDC had chosen a vaccine virus to be sent to vaccine manufacturing companies for production, should the U.S. government decide a vaccine was necessary. The 2009 H1N1 was a subtype with several strains already available for evaluation as an effective vaccine. The similar known strains include influenza C and the subtypes of influenza A known as H1N1, H1N2, H2N1, H3N1, H3N2, and H2N3. COVID-19 was a strain not seen before making the process more difficult.
On Saturday, April 25, 2009 New York City officials reported an investigation into a cluster of influenza-like illness in a high school, and CDC testing confirmed two cases of 2009 H1N1 influenza infection in Kansas, and another case in Ohio shortly after.
On April 29, 2009 the WHO raised the influenza pandemic alert to phase 5, signaling that a pandemic was imminent, and requested that all countries immediately activate their pandemic preparedness plans and be on high alert for unusual outbreaks of influenza-like illness.
By mid-May (three and a half weeks after WHO declared a pandemic), while initial efforts were underway to develop a safe and effective vaccine to protect people against 2009 H1N1, work was begun at CDC to help laboratories supporting health care professionals to more quickly identify the 2009 H1N1 virus in samples from patients.
On late May, 2009, CDC test kits began shipping to domestic and international public health laboratories. (Each test kit contained reagents to test 1,000 clinical specimens). From May 1 through September 1, 2009, more than 1,000 kits were shipped to 120 domestic and 250 international laboratories in 140 countries (that’s a total of one million individual tests). The transition away from CDC lab confirmation testing didn’t happen overnight – between April 23 and May 31, 2009, CDC influenza laboratory analyzed about 5,000 influenza virus samples, five times the number that were processed in a similar timeframe in 2008, and more than during any previous influenza season.
The H1N1 virus of 2009 was highly contagious; with about 27% percent of people who came into contact with an infected individual becoming infected themselves.
CDC reported on June 19 all 50 states, the District of Colombia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands had reported cases of 2009 H1N1 infection. By June 25 at least 1 million cases of 2009 H1N1 influenza had occurred in the United States.
In October, after several CDC and NIH recommendations, President Obama declared a public health emergency. At that time, the disease had infected millions of Americans and as many as 2,000 people had died in the U.S. The epidemic peaked in the 3rd week of November.
The CDC final estimates from April 12, 2009 to April 10, 2010 approximately 60.8 million cases (from data that ranged between 43.3-89.3 million cases), 274,304 hospitalizations (range 195,086-402,719), and 12,469 deaths (range 8,868-18,306) occurred in the United States due to H1N1.
While the overall lethality of H1N1 was significantly lower than the current corona virus it was actually more lethal for children. Throughout the swine flu pandemic the stock market gained 52% in total value and the national news reporting was measured at only about 4% of current corona reporting. H1N1 started in April 2009 had two peaks in case numbers before October, peaked to the greatest number of cases in the 3rd week of November and was reduced by 87% by mid- January of 2010.