Britain: Swine flu less deadly than first thought

AP LONDON — Swine flu is far less dangerous than originally feared, British officials said Thursday — about 100 times less lethal than the 1918 Spanish flu.

To determine how deadly the virus is, the British health department tracked all reported swine flu patients hospitalized between July and November. In a paper published online in the British journal, BMJ, experts estimated that out of every 100,000 infected people in Britain, about 26 died.

That is about 100 times less deadly than the devastating 1918 Spanish flu, which killed at least 50 million people worldwide. And swine flu appears to be nearly 10 times less fatal than the flu pandemics in 1957 and 1968, the British numbers showed.

Earlier this week, American researchers released a similar analysis of the virus and said swine flu, or H1N1, may turn out to be the mildest pandemic on record. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated swine flu has a lower death rate than seasonal flu.

British officials also said swine flu cases fell by about half last week, with an estimated 11,000 new cases.

When the World Health Organization declared swine flu to be a pandemic in June, it described it as “moderate.” Most people who catch swine flu have mild symptoms like a fever or cough, and recover without needing medical treatment.

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