H1N1 Swine Flu Wave Peaking in U.S.?
New Cases Decline but Deaths, Hospitalizations Still Rising
Daniel J. DeNoon
WebMD Health News
Louise Chang, MD
Nov. 20, 2009 -- The current wave of the H1N1 swine flu pandemic may
have peaked in the U.S., new CDC figures suggest.
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H1N1 Swine Flu
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A lot of people are still coming down with H1N1 swine flu. New cases -- as
measured by the number of health care visits by people with flu symptoms -- remain epidemic
in every part of the country. Flu is still widespread in 43 states, but that's
down from 46 states last week and from 48 states the week before that.
And for the first time, new flu cases are trending downward in all parts of
the country, although this downward trend only appeared this week in New
England and New Jersey/New York.
Moreover, Quest Diagnostics, a lab that since May has tested more
than 142,000 patient samples for H1N1 swine flu virus, reports that
requests for H1N1 tests have been declining since Oct. 28 -- about the time
flu-like illnesses started declining in some parts of the U.S.
This doesn't mean there's not more bad news to come. Deaths and
hospitalizations peak weeks after new cases peak. A grim reminder: In the last
week there were 21 new deaths among children and teens, bringing the official
total for the pandemic to 171 kids. And these lab-confirmed cases are just a
partial count, noted Anne Schuchat, MD, CDC director of immunization and
respiratory diseases, at today's weekly news briefing.
"I wish I knew if we had hit the peak," Schuchat said. "What I can say is
that even when a peak has occurred, half of the people who are going to become
ill haven't gotten ill yet."
Schuchat noted that even if this wave of the flu pandemic is peaking,
there's no way to know whether new cases will continue to decline, whether
they'll go up and down for a while, or whether they'll climb again later this
"Influenza season goes from December to May. ... We may have weeks and
months of a lot of disease ahead of us," she said. "And as families gather over
the holiday, we might see an increase in influenza or other infectious disease
activities. ... There's a lot of exchange of warmth and love, but a little
exchange of viruses, too."
To blunt this trend, the CDC is urging people to stay away from family
gatherings if they aren't feeling well. And that goes for children, too.
What else can people do? Get vaccinated with both the 2009 H1N1 and the
seasonal flu vaccines.
Schuchat noted that in the last week, 11 million more doses of H1N1 swine
flu vaccine became available to states. That brings the total number of doses
to 54.1 million -- not as many as had been predicted, but enough to start
meeting demand in some areas.
And 94.5 million of an expected 114 million doses of seasonal flu vaccine
have been delivered to providers. Right now, this vaccine remains available in
most areas of the nation.
SOURCES: CDC news conference with Anne Schuchat, MD, director, National Center for
Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
Quest Diagnostics Health Trend Report, Nov. 20, 2009.
FluView, CDC web site.
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