It might be a surprise for many to learn that each year in the United States, seasonal influenza or complications caused by it, contribute to more than 200,000 hospitalizations and more than 36,000 deaths, according to NIAID.
In April, the novel influenza A (H1N1) outbreak, originating in Mexico, reached the United States. News of this new flu strain outbreak saturated media headlines across the country causing panic. Surgical masks were flying off store shelves and manufacturers were amping up production to keep up with demands.
To date, H1N1 (which had initially been referred to as Swine Flu), has been found in 48 states, with a total of 7,927 confirmed cases, resulting in 11 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC is expecting these numbers to rise in the weeks ahead, simply because it's a new virus for which most of the public has no immunity.
However, it's not necessary to panic. The CDC is advising the public to take much of the same precautionary measures it recommends for preventing the spread of the seasonal flu.
Basic Prevention Guidelines
- Be vigilant about washing your hands
- Avoid rubbing your eyes, mouth and nose
- Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough (preferably with a Kleenex or something other than your hand, to avoid spreading the virus to other surfaces)
- Stay home if you're sick
Vaccination Development Status
Scientists are continuing to monitor and analyze this new flu strain. A vaccine virus is being tested and developed by the World Health Organization Collaborating Centres (WHO CCs), Essential Regulatory Laboratories (ERLs) and other institutions. WHO will announce when it is available.
Pharmaceutical companies like GlaxoSmithKline have been contacted by WHO and other government agencies about producing a candidate H1N1 vaccination. GlaxoSmithKline says once the virus seed is made available, it can have first doses of the vaccine ready four to six weeks later, pending regulatory approval.
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