October 17, 2009

Swine Flu Claims 11 More Children

Eleven more U.S. children died from H1N1 swine flu during the past week, a federal health official said Friday, adding that the disease is now so widespread it has surpassed epidemic proportions.

Of the 86 children who have died since the new swine flu arose last spring, 43 deaths have been reported in September and early October alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

During the past three years, deaths among children from the regular flu ranged from 46 to 88 annually.

Adding to the seriousness of the situation, manufacturing problems have delayed production of the H1N1 vaccine. Instead of reaching a goal of 40 million doses by the end of October, fewer than 30 million doses will be available.

"Despite the delays in vaccine production, more doses are expected weekly," says Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. "We are all going to have to bear with the situation. We wish we had better ways to produce the vaccine perfectly."

Currently, 11.4 million doses of the vaccine are available, and 8 million of those doses have been ordered by the states, Schuchat said. Ultimately, the government hopes to dispense 190 million doses by the end of the year, federal officials have said.

Also surprising, about half of the child deaths reported since Sept. 1 have been teenagers. Until now, much of the attention has focused on younger children.

In addition to children, those who should be near the front of the line for a swine flu shot include pregnant women, people who care for young children, health-care workers, and people with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease.

Schuchat also urged people to get vaccinated for the regular seasonal flu. Eighty-two million doses of the seasonal flu vaccine have been distributed, with a total goal of 114 million doses. "So 71 percent of the doses that are going to be produced have already been distributed," she said.

Schuchat added that it's not too late to get a seasonal flu shot since the seasonal flu season has not yet started, and the H1N1 flu continues to be the dominant strain in circulation.

On Friday, a judge in New York state halted mandatory flu vaccinations for health-care workers.

New York is the only state to require health-care workers to be vaccinated against the seasonal and swine flu. The restraining order came in response to a lawsuit filed by three nurses who said mandatory vaccinations violated their civil rights, The New York Times reported.


On the Net: