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In 2009, the virulent “swine flu” began to circle the globe. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the H1N1 virus claimed over 18,000 lives worldwide. Although 18,000 deaths is bad enough, new data suggest that swine flu, and cardiovascular complications from the disease, is responsible for anywhere between 100,000 and 600,000 deaths.

The WHO count was based on laboratory-confirmed cases. Unfortunately, this method frequently underestimates the actual number of fatal instances because most doctors don’t bother to fully report or investigate suspected H1N1 cases.

The swine flu virus also targets younger victims, unlike seasonal influenza. Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that 80% of swine flu fatalities were of people younger than 65 years of age.

My office is currently involved in a claim involving a young woman who presented to an urgent care clinic with flu-like symptoms. Rather than prescribing and administering an anti-viral agent such as Tamiflu, the staff sent her home. By the time the patient returned with worsening symptoms, it was too late to save her life.

Swine flu remains a threat, even though media coverage has mostly calmed down. Check with your doctor to assess your risk for the disease and to discuss ways to prevent exposure.

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