A/H1N1 flu infections continue to drop in US

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The A/H1N1 flu activity in the United States is now regional, local or sporadic spreading as the country remains free of wide-spreading flu activity for the second week, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Friday.

"No states reported widespread influenza activity, seven states (comparing to nine in the previous week) reported regional influenza activity, Puerto Rico, and 10 states (comparing with 15 in the previous week) reported local influenza activity, the District of Columbia, Guam, and 32 states reported sporadic influenza activity, and the U.S. Virgin Islands and one state reported no influenza activity," the CDC said.

The proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI) in hospitals and clinics across the country dropped to 1.8 percent in the second week of 2010, which is well below the national baseline of 2.3 percent, according to the CDC.

"During the week of Jan. 10-16, 2010, all key indicators (of the A/H1N1 flu), except for one, declined compared to the previous week," the CDC said.

The only exception is the proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza (P&I), which bounced back again above the epidemic threshold during the second week of 2010.

"During week two (Jan. 10-16), 8.0 percent of all deaths reported through the 122-Cities Mortality Reporting System were due to P&I. This percentage was above the epidemic threshold of 7.6 percent for week two," the CDC said.

The agency explained that the latest "increase in P&I is thought to result from an increase in reports of pneumonia-associated deaths in older people," adding that "these deaths are not necessarily related to flu illness."

However, local health officials continue to urge people to get vaccinated against another possible wave of the A/H1N1 pandemic.

"The swine flu, also known as H1N1 flu, is not like the seasonal flu that typically debuts in late fall and wanes by late winter. It can come back," said Susan Walsh, New Jersey state deputy health commissioner.

"Many people are used to seasonal flu, and once they don't see illness in their schools and among their families they believe the threat is over," Walsh said.

She still strongly recommended that people get their shots while the supply is high to guard against another possible wave.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health said on Friday that it will offer free A/H1N1 flu shots on every Saturday through Feb. 6 to anyone who wants to get it.

So far, the CDC has allocated 5,312,500 vaccines to Pennsylvania.

Indiana health officials urged 160,000 children who received the vaccine a month ago to get a second dose.

The second dose is recommended to fully protect against the A/H1N1 flu in children ages six months to nine years.

Meanwhile, college students are beginning to get the A/H1N1 shots in growing numbers, according to a report by the American College Health Association.

Survey found that only 9 to 25 percent of college students had been vaccinated as of mid-January. Local public health officials said now there are lots of shots and their biggest fear is complacency among the general public.

Hospitals, clinics, health department, and physicians' offices continue to place orders for thousands of doses of vaccine every day.

"Health departments are scheduling clinics, and people are attending," said New Jersey deputy health commissioner Walsh.

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