Wednesday, 02 December 2009

Swine Flu Recedes, Vaccine Supply Grows

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The number of H1N1 swine flu infections has been dropping steadily for four weeks as vaccine stockpiles continue to grow, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Monday afternoon.

“Visits to doctors for influenza-like illness (ILI) nationally decreased sharply this week over last week with all regions showing declines in ILI,” announced the Atlanta-based CDC on its website, referring to a preliminary analysis of the week ending on November 21. “This is the fourth consecutive week of national decreases in ILI.” According to the update, the number of states reporting undefined “widespread influenza activity” also dropped by 11 during that week; from 43 to 32. 

The agency “guesstimated” last month that around 4,000 Americans have died so far from complications linked to the swine flu, though the figure is disputed by some experts and the CDC was recently caught inflating the number of cases. Around the globe, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that there have been about 6,000 deaths connected to the virus. By comparison, the CDC claims 36,000 Americans die from seasonal influenza each year, while world wide the WHO estimates that figure at between 250,000 and 500,000.

Based on testing selections of samples, the vast majority of flu cases cropping up still appear to be caused by the H1N1 swine flu virus. And according to the CDC, the number of cases is still above what is considered normal during this period in a typical flu season, though many experts say the peak has already been reached.

But despite the month-long decline in cases, the CDC emphasized that there could still be more to come. “We wouldn’t be surprised to see another rise in activity later this year or early next year when schools are back in session after the Christmas break,” said a CDC spokesman quoted by Bloomberg. “There’s still a lot of flu out there.” An informal CDC poll of about a dozen experts showed that about half expected another wave.

Government health officials also took the opportunity to continue promoting the vaccine. “We are going from a time where there was lots of disease and not enough vaccine to a time where disease is decreasing and there's a steady increase in vaccine,” claimed CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden, noting that there was a current supply of almost 70 million inoculations with more on the way soon. He celebrated the “window of opportunity,” during which time he urged citizens to go and take their shots in case of a resurgence.

But some experts celebrated news reports stating that interest in the vaccine was in decline. “This novel flu vaccine has not been properly tested for safety or efficacy, contains dangerous preservatives such as thimerosal and now the public is not interested,” explained Dr. Mayer Einstein, a strong critic of the shots. “How awesome is that!”

If it turns out that there is no “third wave,” the government is going to appear even more ridiculous than it already does after all the fear mongering and spending billions of taxpayer dollars on vaccines that are not even really in demand.

Originally, officials were scaring the public with “potential” scenarios involving almost 100,000 dead Americans from swine flu. Now those figures seem preposterous barring some unforeseen mutation, which the vaccine would not even protect people against. And as infections wane in the U.K. as well, the government there has already had to reduce its predictions from an incredible 65,000 dead to a more modest 1,000.

But no matter what happens with the number of flu cases, Americans should still be cautious about heeding government advice. Educating oneself on the risks and efficacy of the vaccine along with the dangers of contracting swine flu is absolutely essential in making informed decisions. Meanwhile, the government should stick to its constitutional duties and stop scaring and prodding the populace.

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