Reports

A Killer Flu?

'Inevitable' Epidemic Could Kill Millions

June 2005

A new report from Trust for America's Health found that over half a million Americans could die and over 2.3 million could be hospitalized if a moderately severe strain of a pandemic flu virus hits the U.S. Additionally, based on the model estimates, 66.9 million Americans are at risk of contracting the disease. TFAH's report, "A Killer Flu? 'Inevitable' Epidemic Could Kill Millions" also examines shortfalls in the amount of available antiviral medication and hospital capacity to respond to an epidemic. Additionally, the report examines gaps in U.S. readiness and compares U.S. preparedness to the United Kingdom and Canadian efforts. TFAH offers detailed recommendations to help improve U.S. preparedness.

TFAH provides a series of detailed recommendations to help ensure the U.S. is better prepared regardless of whether a pandemic occurs as soon as this year or in several years. With a crisis looming, the US plan for the pandemic should be finalized and the President should be designated an official with authority to coordinate the US response across federal agencies. Other top level recommendations include taking:

  • Immediate steps of outbreak tracking, stockpiling medical supplies, and developing emergency communications plans;
  • Intermediate steps of stockpiling additional antivirals and developing surge capacity plans for hospitals and health care providers; and
  • Longer range steps to increase vaccine production and the development of new technologies for vaccines.

TFAH's analysis, based on the estimates of the severity of the current strain circulating in Asia, follows warnings issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) about the severity of the pandemic, "killer flu" threat. The projections are based on a modeling program developed by the CDC using WHO estimates that approximately 25 percent of countries' populations could become infected and descriptions of the severity of the strain as likely to be in the range between the levels of the extremely severe 1918 influenza pandemic and the relatively mild 1968 pandemic. Some scientists believe the current avian flu strain is on the more severe side of the possible range. The more mild and more severe estimates are also included in the appendix of TFAH's report.