Swine flu has spread nationwide, and cases are rapidly rising in many parts of the country, according to an announcement yesterday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is significant flu activity in virtually all states," says Dr. Anne Schuch at the CDC. "It's quite unusual for this time of year." It was also announced yesterday that a 23-year-old recruit in basic training in Fort Jackson, S.C., has become the Army’s first swine flu death. Specialist Christopher M. Hog died of pneumonia on September 10th, and swine flu was found on autopsy.
936 Americans have died of flu-related symptoms or pneumonia since August 30th, compared with the 36,000 that die annually of seasonal flu. But what's troubling is that the recent deaths are hitting age groups that do not normally succumb, and the regular flu season doesn't even start until November.
More than 99 percent of all swine flu cases are mild to moderate, but people with health problems and children are at higher risk. Here in New York, the city has added a new "Influenza Portal" to the Health Department website. Step inside, swine-curious friend.
It's getting extreme out there: a hospital in Austin erected two tents in its parking lot to handle emergency room visits, and several North Carolina hospitals have barred children altogether. Yesterday federal health officials released Tamiflu for children from the national stockpile and began taking orders from states for the new swine flu vaccine. In a recent survey, half of all parents said they were worried about the flu, but only 35 percent would definitely have their children vaccinated. Many worry that the vaccine is new and untested, a misconception the CDC is struggling to correct.
There may be a bit of good news in all this. Dr. Schuch tells the Times that scientists studying lung samples from 77 fatal swine flu cases have found that in about a third of the cases, the patient had died not from flu alone, but from bacteria that infiltrate when flu inflames the lungs. Most infections were a common bacteria for which there is a vaccine. Anyone with chronic heart and lung problems is especially encouraged to get this vaccine.