Background: The mortality burden of the 2009 A/H1N1 pandemic remains unclear in many countries due to delays in reporting of death statistics. We estimate the age- and cause-specific excess mortality impact of the pandemic in France, relative to that of other countries and past epidemic and pandemic seasons.
Methods: We applied Serfling and Poisson excess mortality approaches to model weekly age- and cause-specific mortality rates from June 1969 through May 2010 in France. Indicators of influenza activity, time trends, and seasonal terms were included in the models. We also reviewed the literature for country-specific estimates of 2009 pandemic excess mortality rates to characterize geographical differences in the burden of this pandemic.
Results: The 2009 A/H1N1 pandemic was associated with 1.0 (95% Confidence Intervals (CI) 0.2-1.9) excess respiratory deaths per 100,000 population in France, compared to rates per 100,000 of 44 (95% CI 43-45) for the A/H3N2 pandemic and 2.9 (95% CI 2.3-3.7) for average inter-pandemic seasons. The 2009 A/H1N1 pandemic had a 10.6-fold higher impact than inter-pandemic seasons in people aged 5-24 years and 3.8-fold lower impact among people over 65 years.
Conclusions: The 2009 pandemic in France had low mortality impact in most age groups, relative to past influenza seasons, except in school-age children and young adults. The historical A/H3N2 pandemic was associated with much larger mortality impact than the 2009 pandemic, across all age groups and outcomes. Our 2009 pandemic excess mortality estimates for France fall within the range of previous estimates for high-income regions. Based on the analysis of several mortality outcomes and comparison with laboratory-confirmed 2009/H1N1 deaths, we conclude that cardio-respiratory and all-cause mortality lack precision to accurately measure the impact of this pandemic in high-income settings and that use of more specific mortality outcomes is important to obtain reliable age-specific estimates.