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Swine flu update: where do we stand?


President Obama gets the shot (AP Photo/Pete Souza)

The H1N1 virus, also known as the swine flu, gripped the country and the world last year as it came upon us dangerously quick last April.  With over 11,500 deaths worldwide in just over 8 months, it was easily the top health concern for 2009. 

Since the arrival of the virus, the government's response to keeping Americans healthy has been swift yet flawed.  A vaccine was quickly produced and made available for use by the start of the cold and flu season.  However, vaccine shortages left many citizens unprotected and vulnerable during the fall of 2009.  Long vaccine lines and strict patient guidelines forced many Americans to wait for vaccination.  So where do we stand on the swine flu as we begin 2010?

As the New Year gets underway, there is good news to report on the status of the swine flu.  Vaccine production is finally catching up to demand, allowing for more Americans to get vaccinated.  So far, 60 million Americans have been vaccinated for the H1N1 virus.  Many of those vaccinated, about 46%,  have been children, who appeared to be hit hardest by the swine flu.  About 111 million doses are now available to those wanting the shot this season. 

As far as the virus itself, it appears that reports of infection in North America peaked in late October.  According to health officials, only 4 U.S. states reported widespread infection cases last week.  That number is down from 28 states reporting widespread activity in October.  World Health Organization (WHO) chief Margaret Chan predicts that the worst is over for the United States, Canada, and Britain.  She stopped short of declaring an end to the pandemic and contends the virus could linger into 2011.  There is still the fear of the virus mutating and becoming harder to fight.  Chan suggests health experts should monitor the virus closely for another 6-12 months.

Protecting yourself against the swine flu is still an important task in 2010.  Good hand washing practices, covering your cough and sneeze, and staying home while sick are still good habits to have this cold and flu season.  It should be a lot easier to get the vaccine for yourself or your children now that the doses have become more widely available.  If you live in Metro Detroit and want information regarding the swine flu vaccine, check with your doctor or click below for county specific info:

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