Worse than SARS

The death toll for the new H1N1 is now over 800.

SARS killed 774.

The SARS epidemic began in November 2002 and ended in July 2003. The disruptions caused by this disease were substantial. Travel restrictions were imposed. Economic losses by China and Canada, the two focal points, were in the billions. But, in the end, SARS proved containable through contact tracing and adherence to good infection control practices in hospitals.

Containing a flu pandemic is much more difficult. This is because people shed virus before they show symptoms and because the flu virus spreads more easily via respiratory droplets. In the absence of a vaccine, the most effective control measures are movement restrictions. These have not been implemented in the current pandemic allowing the virus to spread across the world at the speed of a passenger jet.

Now that the virus is well-established on every continent (other than Antarctica), the pandemic is unlikely to end any time soon. We can expect more deaths and more economic losses. Likely, many more deaths and much greater economic losses.

The new H1N1 pandemic is worse than SARS.  A lot worse.


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