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H1N1 flu illnesses dropping to seasonal norms in state

December 31, 2009 |  5:48 pm

Cases of H1N1 flu illness reported to California health officials have fallen to normal seasonal expectations, officials said today.

"Most indicators suggest that illness may be declining, with levels of illness approaching the normal range for this time of year," the California Department of Public Health said in its weekly H1N1 staff report.

Officials said 72 new H1N1 cases that resulted in hospitalizations or deaths were reported to California health authorities for the week that ended Dec. 26. That figure was significantly down from the 209 new cases reported the previous week.

The number of flu-related fatalities reported to the state last week dropped to 12, down from 32 the previous week.

The trend in California is consistent with what is being seen nationally with H1N1, or swine flu.

The number of states reporting widespread flu activity has dropped from seven last week to four this week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported today.  California was one of the states that downgraded its H1N1 flu status from widespread to regional this week.

The four states still reporting widespread flu activity are Delaware, Maine, New Jersey and Virginia.

Earlier this week, Dr. Margaret Chan, the World Health Organization's director-general, said that flu activity is still growing in Egypt, India and elsewhere, and cautioned that it is too early to say the pandemic is over.

Despite the decrease in illness in North America, officials have warned the public to expect a third wave of H1N1 cases, and are urging the public to get vaccinated.

Supplies of the inoculation have improved this month. Los Angeles County public health officials in mid-December opened up distribution of the vaccine from priority groups to the general public. Most drug store chains are now reporting that they have the inoculations.

--Rong-Gong Lin II