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H1N1 Swine Flu Widespread in U.S.

CDC: 'Virtually All the U.S. Has This Virus Circulating'

By Daniel J. DeNoon
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

May 4, 2009 -- The new H1N1 swine flu is circulating in "virtually all the U.S.," a CDC official said yesterday.

Anne Schuchat, MD, the CDC's acting director for science and public health noted that the count of states with confirmed flu jumped to 30 on Sunday -- and said she expects that nearly all states soon will see cases.

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"I believe that virtually all the U.S. has this virus circulating. It does not mean everyone is infected, but within communities, it has arrived," Schuchat said at a news conference.

In New York City, the new flu spread quickly through a high school, infecting one in three students.

"What we can learn from the New York City survey is this virus spread pretty easily in those high school students," Schuchat said.

The H1N1 swine flu remains a relatively mild flu illness for most people who come down with it.

But to slow its spread and buy time for vaccine development, the CDC recommends that schools shut down for two weeks if a student comes down with a confirmed or even suspected case of the new flu.

This means parents should make plans for what they would do if their children's schools were affected.

The sudden appearance of the new flu raises a number of questions. The one that worries Schuchat is whether the H1N1 swine flu can keep smoldering throughout the spring and summer months -- and what will happen if it hits hard when flu season starts back up in the fall and winter.

"I am particularly concerned about what will happen in the fall," Schuchat says.

Although most U.S. H1N1 flu cases have been mild, the CDC fully expects more hospitalizations and more deaths.

It's possible the new flu could mutate to become even milder. On the other hand, it's also possible it could become much more severe. That is the specter that keeps public health workers awake at night -- and working every weekend.

SOURCES: CDC news conference with Anne Schuchat, MD, interim deputy director for Science and Public Health Program, CDC.

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