One in five kids had swine flu this month, CDC says [Updated]
One in five U.S. children had an influenza-like illness during the first 11 days of October, and most of those cases were probably pandemic H1N1 influenza, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 7% of adults said they had suffered the illness during the same time period, according to a telephone survey of more than 14,000 households, agency officials announced today at a medical meeting in Atlanta. There was no confirmation of the infections.
[Update, 12:02 p.m. Oct. 23: Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the CDC, said Friday in a news conference that the data was misinterpreted by news media and that it is highly unlikely that most of the cases were swine flu. In a few communities having peak infections, one in five kids did have swine flu, but in this survey, it is far more likely that most of them had colds and other infections. "The data simply show that kids get a lot of infections," he said.]
Lyn Finelli, a CDC surveillance expert, said the so-called swine flu virus is causing more illness now than at any time since the first outbreak in April. She added that the number of swine flu deaths in children since the beginning of September is equal to the number that occurred in the four months of the outbreak this spring.
Some experts have warned that the pandemic is peaking now and that the swine flu vaccine, which has been delayed, will arrive too late to have much effect. But health authorities have emphasized that even if half of the population has contracted the virus, that still leaves substantial numbers vulnerable to it.
In other news:
-- The American Medical Assn. has created a new website to help patients and physicians communicate and to improve care coordination for swine flu. The site will help patients assess their own potential flu symptoms or those of a child or other loved one, and provide guidance on whether to seek medical care.
-- The Food and Drug Administration is warning again that alleged flu scams abound on the Internet, according to the Associated Press. The agency has sent warning letters to more than 140 promoters of swine-flu-related products, including well-known alternative medicine advocate Dr. Andrew Weil for his "Immune Support Formula." "It's harmful, disappointing, frustrating to see folks take advantage of the public like this," Dr. John Santa of Consumer Reports told AP. The agency also cautioned doctors against prescribing products like the antiviral agent ribavirin that have not been shown to be effective against influenza. A list of the allegedly fraudulent products is available here and you can report fraud here.
-- Many people refuse to get vaccinated for swine flu, but there are still large numbers who want it. More than 1,700 people showed up for a vaccination campaign Wednesday at a public health clinic in Rockville, Md., but most had to be turned away because the clinic had only 249 doses, according to Reuters. Vaccine distribution has been delayed because the virus does not grow as rapidly in the laboratory as producers had hoped.
-- Thomas H. Maugh II
This image released by the FDA shows the website swineflugone.com, operated by Secrets of Eden. The agency says such products do not work.
Credit: Associated Press / FDA