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Swine flu follow-up

When the heads of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases came to see us last week, they had some good news. The second wave of the H1N1 virus (known to the rest of us as swine flu) had reached a plateau. It has remained relatively mild. And there are now enough doses of the vaccine for anyone who wants one. That last point is most important. The officials said the window of opportunity is open now to protect yourself against a possible third wave.

You'll recall that the first wave of swine flu hit in April in Mexico and the United States. It spread so quickly and so far that the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic in June. According to CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden, as of mid-November there were an estimated 47 million confirmed cases of H1N1 in the United States, 213,000 hospitalizations and nearly 10,000 deaths. That is fewer than the 36,000 who die annually from seasonal flu. What gives that number added significance is that 1,000 of the swine flu deaths were children. Dr. Frieden told us that's a five-fold increase over the number of children who succumb to seasonal flu.

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