H1N1 flu is back and found in 37 states, CDC reports

Nasal spray vaccine for swine flu now shipping to some clinics; studies suggest it’s OK to get shots for seasonal flu and swine flu at same time

H1N1 influenza, or swine flu, has now returned full bore to the United States after largely dissipating over the summer, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official said during a news briefing October 9. Cases of H1N1 have been reported in 37 states, up from 27 states a week earlier, CDC physician and flu expert Anne Schuchat said at the briefing.

A vaccine that protects against the H1N1 flu virus is now leaving factories and reaching clinics, with the nasal spray vaccine arriving first and the injected vaccine to follow, Schuchat said. People considered to be highest priority, including pregnant women and health care workers, will be targeted first.  

Schuchat said that 76 children have died from the 2009 H1N1 flu so far. That’s still in the range of past flu epidemics, she noted, but the H1N1 outbreak could continue until next spring. That could increase the fatality count.

Production of seasonal flu vaccine began earlier than the H1N1 vaccine and more is available. The CDC, based in Atlanta, is reporting strong demand for the seasonal flu vaccine as well as for the H1N1 vaccine.

Also at the briefing, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, announced that early results from clinical trials indicate injected vaccine for the H1N1 flu can be given at the same time as a vaccine shot for the seasonal flu.

Early results from a test of 800 healthy people — 400 elderly and 400 other adults — show that giving the shots simultaneously doesn’t impair the immune response. Doubling up on the nasal spray vaccines hasn’t yet been tested, he said.

Other early findings from ongoing trials suggest that a single injection of the H1N1 vaccine, given to adults and the elderly, fully protects a healthy individual, Fauci said.

Meanwhile, reports earlier this month about an unpublished study from Canada suggested that people who had received the seasonal flu vaccine during the last flu season were more prone to contract the H1N1 flu. Schuchat said four studies in the United States fail to support that finding. All have found that last year’s seasonal flu vaccine didn’t increase or decrease an individual’s risk of getting the H1N1 flu during the spring 2009 outbreak. Australia and Britain also have found no correlation, she said.

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