CDC: Less flu, more vaccine presents 'window of opportunity'

Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2009 3:05 PM
Last updated 3:59 PM
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In a reversal of the situation the country faced just weeks ago, a declining number of flu cases and an increasing supply of vaccine against the novel influenza A H1N1 virus present a “window of opportunity” to prevent the spread of infection, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today.

“We’re going from a time where there was lots of disease and not enough vaccine to a time where disease is gradually decreasing and we’re having a steady increase in the amount of vaccine that’s available,” said Thomas R. Frieden. “That gives a window of opportunity for more people to be protected by getting the vaccine.”

The number of states who had widespread flu activity decreased for the week ending Nov. 21, the latest report available, from 43 states to 32. Both Georgia and South Carolina are now at a regional level of activity, the next lowest level. But, Dr. Frieden cautioned, “we’re far from out of the woods.” In particular, CDC officials have harkened back to the flu pandemic in 1957-58, when a wave and decline in the fall was followed by another surge in the winter. Whether that will happen again is anyone’s guess, Dr. Frieden said.

“We look to the past to learn from it,” he said. “But if you’ve seen one flu pandemic, you’ve seen one flu pandemic.”

In fact, CDC did an informal poll of a dozen influenza experts and asked if there would be another surge later in the flu season, Dr. Frieden said. About half said they expected another surge and the other half said they didn’t.

“And one said, 'Flip a coin,’^” Dr. Frieden said.

But now there are nearly 70 million doses of vaccine available against the new virus and those who have given up finding a shot should have better luck now and in coming weeks, he said.

“Now is an increasingly good time to try again,” Dr. Frieden said.

FLU CLINICS

Richmond County and Columbia County health departments will be holding special clinics Wednesday and Thursday to help get people vaccinated against the novel influenza A H1N1 virus. Richmond County will be at the East Central Health District, 1916 North Leg Road, Building A, from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 4 p.m Wednesday. Another clinic will be held at the main health department clinic at 950 Laney-Walker Blvd. from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday. The vaccine will also be available at the main clinic on weekdays during normal clinic hours. The shots are free.

Columbia County will be holding two H1N1 clinics from 3:15 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday at Evans Middle School, 4318 Washington Road, and from 3 to 6 p.m. at Grovetown Middle School, 5463 Harlem Grovetown Road.


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