The total number infected represents an increase of about 7 million flu cases since the latest estimate in December, a modest increase that correlates with other data suggesting the pandemic has been waning.
Most cases in all categories have involved children and adults under age 65, a sharp change from normal flu seasons, when the elderly suffer disproportionately. Although the overall death total is lower than the estimated 35,000 U.S. deaths in a normal flu season, the numbers in children and adults are much higher than normal.
The estimates are compiled from the number of laboratory-confirmed cases and from cases that may be listed on death certificates as pneumonia, organ failure or other infections, but that were precipitated by flu.
The most recent data on flu activity, for the week ending
Nonetheless, according to the official CDC report, "Flu activity, caused by either 2009 H1N1 or seasonal flu viruses, may rise and fall, but it is expected to continue for several more months."
The World Health Organization said Thursday that it will convene a panel of experts at the end of the month to discuss a move to the next phase of the pandemic, the so-called post-peak phase. That is a time, according to WHO documents, when "levels of pandemic influenza in most countries with adequate surveillance have dropped below peak levels." That phase suggests that the worst is over, but that the pandemic itself is not.
The WHO's advisory committee on vaccines will meet next week to discuss what virus strains should be included in the 2010-2011 seasonal flu vaccine. Because swine flu is the predominant form of virus that is now circulating, it is expected to be the primary ingredient.
(c) 2010, Los Angeles Times.
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