Peak nears for Sweden’s swine flu outbreak

Sweden's swine flu outbreak is expected to peak within the next two to three weeks, indicating that the disease has been less widespread than health authorities originally expected.

“It will probably be a relatively short time before we started to see the first high,” said state epidemiologist Annika Linde of the Swedish Institute for Disease Control (Smittskyddsinstitutet) to the TT news agency.

If Sweden follows the pattern of New Zealand, a country with a similar population density, the epidemic will reach its peak within two to three weeks.

The high will most likely be reached first in large urban regions as those are the areas where the infection is most common today.

The projection would mean that the outbreak won’t be as serious as originally feared earlier in the summer, when Swedish health authorities forecast that one in three Swedes would be infected with the swine flu.

In New Zealand, around 10 percent of the population was hit by the first pandemic wave, according to estimates, and that was without any vaccination programme in place.

“It’s much lower than what we had thought,” said Linde, adding however that society must be prepared for the pandemic to return, most likely in the spring of 2010.

Based on numbers from New Zealand, around 35 Swedes are projected to die from the swine flu, with around 90 needing intensive care.

“It’s like predicting the weather – they can get it wrong! But as it looks now, we’re expecting a very small peak with young adults being hit the hardest,” said Linde.

Older people have better immunity against the A/H1N1 virus because similar viruses have circulated earlier.

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