U.S. bracing for H1N1 pandemic
The bad news is that a different strain of the H1N1 flu is expected to
hit to the
United States this fall with a vengeance, but the good news is
expect to have a vaccine of two or more doses ready for public
use in October.
"It's not over. In the U.S. it is persisting through the summer.
The estimated number
affected is about 1 million cases," Capt. Sonja Hutchins, M.D.,
MPH, Dr.PH. said
of H1N1. "In the fall, we are expected to have seasonal
influenza as well as H1N1."
Dr. Hutchins, senior medical officer, epidemiology, and officer
of minority health
and disparities for the Centers for Disease Control, presented
"H1N1: The First
Pandemic of the 21st Century" July 29 during NMA Internal
Medicine Section's Infectious
H1N1 presents great challenges for the health care community and
to develop a vaccine because the flu is very transmissible and
has antiviral resistance
patterns that have made existing medications ineffective, she
"The vaccine will be effective, but we don't know how effective
it will be," Dr.
Hutchins said, adding that it may be difficult to produce enough
of the vaccine
for everyone and that it is still not known how many doses of
the vaccine will be
U.S. health officials are working to establish priorities for
who will receive the
vaccine, as well as other details, she said.
What is known is that H1N1 has changed since it appeared in
North America earlier
this year, late in the flu season.
"It has remarkable heterogeneity and has affected young people
Most of those affected are less than 24 years of age. There is
severe disease with
this strain," Dr. Hutchins said, adding that in June the World
labeled the spread of H1N1 a pandemic, with 70 countries
In response, the U.S. government has mounted an aggressive
response with enhanced
surveillance, vaccination research, community measures and
she said. It is tracking when and where influenza activity is
occurring as well
as influenza-related illness.
As fall approaches, reports on H1N1 will increase from weekly to
daily, and mortality
reports from 122 cities and lab reports of isolates will be
tracked, Dr. Hutchins
While developing a vaccine is a priority, the government is also
focusing on a distribution
program, which could include physicians giving vaccinations and
for administrative costs, she said.
Also important are community measures to keep healthy students
and workers in their
normal routines while those who are sick stay at home. This
could include a school
dismissal system, so Dr. Hutchins said to "stay tuned,"
emphasizing that Mexico
had great success controlling the spread of H1N1 by recognizing
its dangers early
and limiting large gatherings at the peak of the disease.
Finally, individuals should know they could help by washing
their hands with soap
and water, and avoiding touching surfaces that could be
infected, she said.
"This is a shared responsibility," Dr. Hutchins said. "We have
to work closely with
local health agencies. The vaccine will go to local health
agencies, so there needs
to be a lot of communication back and forth."