More than 57 million Americans have become ill from the H1N1 influenza virus and nearly 11,700 have died, according to estimates released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While the new figures show the H1N1 pandemic virus is still spreading, they also reflect a continued slowdown in the transmission of the illnesses since last fall. The CDC had last estimated about 55 million Americans had been sickened, 246,000 were hospitalized and about 11,100 had died through mid-December.
The new figures estimate the number of illnesses from April 2009--when the new H1N1 influenza virus was first discovered--through Jan. 14.
While health officials have yet to declare the end of the influenza pandemic, a new round of widespread illness is increasingly unlikely now that a substantial portion of the U.S. population has been either sickened by or vaccinated against the H1N1 pandemic virus. About 70 million people have been vaccinated.
About 257,000 people were hospitalized with H1N1 influenza through mid-January, which is higher than the approximately 200,000 hospitalizations seen in a normal influenza season when seasonal influenza viruses are circulating.
Of the hospitalizations, 82,000 were in people younger than 18 while 150,000 were in people age 18 to 64. About 25,000 people age 65 and older were hospitalized with H1N1, which shows the H1N1 virus is continuing to affect younger people. With seasonal influenza, the majority of hospitalizations and deaths are in people age 65 and older.
The CDC attributed 11,690 deaths to H1N1, with 1,230 of them being in young people age 17 and younger and 8,980 in people age 18 to 64. In the elderly, 1,480 deaths were attributed to H1N1. In a normal influenza season. about 36,000 deaths are attributed to influenza and pneumonia with 90% of them being in people age 65 and older.
In a separate weekly report of H1N1 influenza activity, the CDC said most influenza strains circulating as of Feb. 6 are the H1N1 strain and not strains that cause seasonal influenza.
As of Feb. 6, the majority of states reported "sporadic" transmission of the H1N1 virus, the CDC said. However, the CDC said doctor visits for influenza-like illnesses increased slightly over the previous week but "remain low overall."
In other words, if you lived before 1943, or received the 1976 swine flu vaccine, you may be protected against infection with 2009 H1N1 virus. After the 1976 swine H1N1 outbreak at Fort Dix, NJ, approximately 40 million people in the United States were immunized with an NJ/76 vaccine. The NJ/76 swine virus never spread in the general population, but the vaccine against it has finally proven useful.
If you are less than 35 years old, you are more likely to be infected with the 2009 H1N1 virus because you did not receive the NJ/76 vaccine, nor were you infected with viruses that circulated from 1918-1943.