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Old 10-23-2009, 09:53 AM   #1
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Default Purdue researchers: H1N1 about to peak

Purdue researchers: H1N1 about to peak
Researchers: Early peak will reduce vaccine impact

Updated: Wednesday, 21 Oct 2009, 12:10 PM EDT
Published : Tuesday, 20 Oct 2009, 7:56 PM EDT

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - Two Purdue University math researchers have predicted the novel H1N1 flu will peak so early that planned vaccinations will not have a large effect on the number of people infected.

Sherry Towers, from Purdue's statistics department, and Zhilan Feng, from Purdue's math department, used a mathematical model to predict the spread of the disease. They used data collected by the Centers for Disease Control in May, June, July and August.

The result? The model predicted that H1N1 infections will reach their peak in either the week before or the week after Halloween.

The researchers said this early peak for the disease mean that the vaccination campaign will only reduce infections by, at most, 6%. However, as the model also predicted that 63% of the US population will have been infected by the end of the year, a 6% reduction could still mean that the vaccinations could save thousands of lives.

While 63% of the US population sounds like a huge figure, Towers explained that this figure represents the total number of infected people, not the number of people showing symptoms.

"In the paper we point out that many studies have shown that while a large number of people may be infected by influenza, only about 40 percent of those people who are infected actually show signs of illness," Towers said. "So, in our paper, we actually state that in the end only about 25 percent of people will likely fall ill."

Towers said they do not want to discourage anyone from getting an H1N1 vaccination.

Feng cautioned their model was "very simple," and noted that the pair had to make a lot of assumptions to get a result.

"You have to be careful about following the prediction of the study," said Feng.

The study appears in the October 15 edition of www.eurosurveillance.org .

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