In a press briefing transcript on June 4, 2009, the CDC indicated that the H1N1 flu (swine flu) has likely peaked in Northern Hemisphere countries, although there are some locations that continue to see more cases. The CDC believes that cases of H1N1 will now start to accelerate in the Southern Hemisphere, as this area is approaching winter, the time of year most conducive to proving the “right” environment for a flu season. Travelers should check the Internet for local news on H1N1, regardless of the destination for which they are headed.
Some other factoids about H1N1 emerged from the CDC briefing. H1N1 seems more likely to infect the young rather than seniors. Approximately 60% of the cases and 42% of the hospitalizations have occurred in people between the ages of 5 and 24 and the next highest group is kids under 5 years. Cases in those over 60 years of age have been quite low (fewer than 5% of the total), although this group is usually impacted more than the rest of the population by seasonal influenza. It appears that some people who are 60 or older may have antibodies from other forms of the flu they have contracted during their lives and that these may provide antibodies repelling H1N1.
Just to bring you up to date, over 19,000 cases of H1N1 have been reported in over 66 countries. The United States appears to have been hit harder than most countries with 11,468 probable cases reported, 770 hospitalizations and 19 fatalities. To put this into perspective, seasonal influenza viruses are estimated to cause 200,000 hospitalizations each year in the United States with over 36,000 deaths. Most of the deaths and hospitalizations are in people over 65.
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