CDC director: About 16% of Americans have been sick with H1N1 this year

12/11/2009

ATLANTA One-in-6 Americans have been sick with the novel H1N1 virus so far this year, Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported during a news conference Thursday.

“We estimate there have been nearly 50 million cases, mostly in younger adults and children,” he said.  

That includes approximately 200,000 hospitalizations so far this year, which correlates with the number of hospitalizations typical for the seasonal flu. However, there have been almost 10,000 deaths, including 1,100 children and 7,500 young adults, Frieden said. “That’s much higher than in a usual flu season,” he said. So as we’ve seen for months this is a flu that is much harder on younger people and fortunately has largely spared the elderly until now.”

And though the number of H1N1 cases is expected to continue to decline this week, Frieden cautioned against complacency, commenting that the typical flu season extends into May and noting that the vast majority of Americans — 5-in-6 — have not become sick with H1N1, suggesting there is still a significant number of people who could become ill.

While the number of H1N1 cases decline, the amount of H1N1 influenza vaccine available continues to increase — approximately 85 million doses have been delivered to the CDC to date.

“Many states have increased the eligibility, having met the demand in the five priority groups to the general population and that’s consistent with the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices,” Frieden said. “This is still a good window of opportunity to be vaccinated. I can certainly understand that many people might [ask], ‘Well there’s been so much disease and it’s going down so much, why get vaccinated now?’ But the fact is we don’t know what the future will hold.”

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