Saturday, January 09, 2010

H1N1 weekly deaths increase, but spread of virus decreases

This post now a Google News Link and on

Wonder what's going on with the H1N1 virus?  If there's going to be a third wave of the epidemic this flu season, we should know soon.  But the CDC is still not sure what lies in store for the rest of this winter.

The Centers for Disease Control closely monitor and analyze all data on H1N1, and do their best to make predictions. On their very thorough website, they posted their most recent H1N1 reports on January 4. As you can see, the report has mixed indicators of future trends for H1N1.  It also has a lot of information about what you can do to protect yourself.

Number of deaths has increased
The Jan 4 report says that, for the most recent week analyzed (Dec 20-26), the number of flu deaths increased over the preceding week. The number of deaths is now back above the "epidemic" threshold, after dipping below it for the first time in 11 weeks. Almost all of the influenza viruses identified this winter in the U.S. continue to be 2009 H1N1 influenza A virus, which is susceptible to the H1N1 vaccine now being widely offered to the public.

Doctor visits up; hospitalization rates steady
For the week Dec 20-26, visits to doctors for flu-like symptoms increased over the previous week. Overall hospitalization rates for flu and its most dangerous complication (pneumonia) were unchanged from the previous week.

Antivirals still effective
For persons very sick with H1N1 and pneumonia, the currently circulating H1N1 virus remains susceptible to the antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir "with rare exception."

Is the virus in decline?
The number of states reporting widespread influenza activity decreased for the last week analyzed (Dec 20-26).  In addition, the number of pediatric deaths has decreased, even though the total number of deaths increased.

Get the shot!
The CDC continues to urge the public to get inoculated against H1N1. The shot or mist is offered widely at county health departments and doctors' offices. When I went to get a shot at my local county health department, the vaccine was free. There was a $15 administration fee, which is covered by insurance. The CDC has said repeatedly that widespread vaccination of the public can be a major factor in preventing a third wave of the disease. The vaccine will continue to be widely available through January.

Vulnerable groups
On January 2, Science News ran an online story saying sickle-cell increases vulnerability to H1N1 in children, although I didn't see that on the CDC website.

According to the CDC, the persons most vulnerable to complications from H1N1 are:
People 65 and older
Children under 5
Pregnant women
African Americans
People with these health conditions:
HIV/AIDS, severe immunosuppresssion, diabetes, disabilities, cardiovascular disease, asthma, arthritis, cancer patients and survivors, chronic pulmonary obstructive disease.

People who interact a lot with the public in their jobs may be more likely to contract H1N1 than others.

See Source #4. below for more info about vulnerable groups.

According to the CDC, you may have the flu if you have some or all of these symptoms:
fever (may or may not be present)
sore throat
runny or stuffy nose
body aches
sometimes diarrhea and vomiting

To prevent infection in yourself and your children: get the vaccine, wash your hands frequently with soap or alcohol gel, avoid contact with those who are ill, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth when out in public.  And if you have flu-like symptoms, call or see your health care provider. Stay home at least 24 hours after your fever is gone.  

1. Centers for Disease Control. 2009 H1N1 Flu: Situation Update January 4, 2009
2. CDC. 2009 H1N1 Flu: Situation Update - Key Flu Indicators January 4, 2009
3. CDC. General Information about 2009 H1N1 Vaccines (and where to find a vaccine)
4. CDC. People at High Risk of Developing Flu-Related Complications. November 10, 2009
5. CDC. Flu View. (a map of state-by-state influenza activity). For week ending Dec 26, 2009
6. Nathan Seppa.  "H1N1 Hits Sickle Cell Kids Hard". Science News. January 2, 2009

My previous posts about H1N1:
H1N1 shot made my son vomit, but GO GET THAT SHOT  12/24/2009

H1N1 widespread but declining. Experts disagree about a third wave of H1N1 this winter. 12/02/2009

Second wave of H1N1 declining in numbers but not severity. Third wave may be the worst 11/18/09

The most dangerous cases of H1N1  11/12/2009

My daughter says elderberry got rid of her H1N1 10/22/2009

Why is swine flu likely to return in winter? It's not because we're cooped up together in winter 5/8/2009

H1N1 is a swine flu and has its roots NC, the land of Smithfield 5/2/2009

Smithfield blamed for swine flu by Mexican press   4/29/2009

Keywords: CDC H1N1 vaccine influenza swine flu vulnerable groups epidemic

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