The Italian Almanac

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The Flu is Late

Experts were predicting that the flu season could come early this year but now they say it appears to be late, thanks in part to warmer temperatures this autumn. "In Italy the seasonal flu virus has yet to be isolated while there have been confirmed cases in several countries in northern Europe," University of Milan virologist Fabrizio Pregliasco said. "Thus it is presumable that the first cases in Italy will be identified over the next two weeks and in the two weeks after that the number will rise considerably," the expert added.

One of the reasons why flu had been expected earlier was because this season's strain contains the highly contagious H1N1 virus, which last year reached a pandemic level, although its fatality rate remained low. Last year's flu was also known as Influenza A, Mexican and Swine flu and claimed some 18,000 lives worldwide. The pandemic, however, was less fatal than regular seasonal flu which has a fatality rate of 0.1% compared to the rate of 0.03% for H1N1.

Health officials have been criticised for exaggerating the danger from last year's flu and some government agencies have even been accused of conflict of interest in ordering massive doses of flu vaccine, most of which went unused. In reply to criticism that the danger posed by the pandemic had been overblown or even engineered by the pharmaceutical industry, the World Health Organization released a report certifying that the virus originated naturally and that the global response was adequate to the threat it presented.

According to the Italian health ministry, the H1N1 virus has been linked to over 230 deaths since September 2009, the vast majority of them people with other health problems.