2009-12-09 / Features

Swine Flu Virus Spreads, Slowly

BY RICHARD GENTILVISO

New swine flu infections continue to drop across the United States, but 27 confirmed cases were the cause of an additional 27 deaths among children and teenagers for the week ending November 21, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nationwide, a total of 234 children and teenagers have died from swine flu since April.

This coming weekend (December 12 and 13) is the last scheduled for free H1N1 vaccinations (for swine flu) at expanded clinics set up by the city Health Department in November. In Queens, vaccinations are available on Saturday, December 12 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, December 13 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at I.S. 25 (Adrien Block School), 34- 65 192nd St. in Auburndale, for the following groups of people:

•Pregnant women

•Anyone 4 years through 24 years of age

•Persons 25 through 64 years of age who have underlying health conditions that increases risk of severe illness or complications (asthma, diabetes, chronic heart and lung conditions, kidney failure, or a weakened immune system)

•Anyone who lives with or cares for children less than 6 months old

•Healthcare workers who have direct contact with patients and cannot receive vaccine through their employers

The weekend vaccination centers first opened on November 7 in all five boroughs, primarily to vaccinate middle and high school students, along with elementary school students, who had not been vaccinated by private providers or in their schools.

Vaccination centers are designed to accommodate up to 500 people per hour, but lines are a possibility. Anyone under 18 years of age must present a signed parental consent form and anyone under 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

2009 H1N1 influenza (swine flu) was first found in New York City last spring and is caused by a new strain of virus. Although most cases of swine flu are mild, it is estimated that 22 million have had swine flu with about 98,000 of those cases going to the hospital. The number who have died from swine flu is roughly 3,900.

The CDC’s latest numbers indicate the fall wave of swine flu has peaked. Overall visits to doctors for flu dropped for the fourth week in a row and hospitalizations went down for the third week in succession. In addition, for the first time, there appeared to be a definite decline in weekly deaths as of November 30.

The CDC is tentatively predicting a new, possibly smaller, January wave of swine flu could happen due to returning students home for Christmas vacations. Cases of seasonal flu are now being found occasionally too.

People 50 and older can get free seasonal flu vaccinations at senior citizen centers. They are also available at no cost at NYC Health Department immunization clinics, and at low or no cost at NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation facilities. Visit nyc.gov/flu or call 311.

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