Flu outbreaks continue

    Public concern about the H1N1 flu outbreaks has waned in the past week. But health officials say it’s too soon to turn our backs on swine flu.

    Public concern about the H1N1 flu outbreaks has waned in the past week. But health officials say it’s too soon to turn our backs on swine flu. (For more information on this map, see our Novel H1N1 flu main page)

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    In Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania there are more than 100 cases of the new H1N1 virus. The United States has nearly doubled Mexico in the number of people who have contracted the bug. Surveys have found public concern about the outbreaks has waned. But Pennsylvania Health Department spokesperson Holli Senior says it’s important for people to remember the virus is still out there.

    Senior: It’s an incident where we certainly want you to continue to live your daily lives but we just want to remind you that it is among us and we can’t stress enough the importance of staying home when you’re sick. Or keeping your children home when they are ill.

    Health officials say they expect additional cases and school closures to occur. State health departments are now conducting their own testing to confirm H1N1 cases, rather than sending them to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Senior says this will expedite the process and help the health department contain the virus’s spread.

    George DiFerdinando is the director of the New Jersey Center for Public Health Preparedness. He says even as the public’s interest wanes, health officials will continue to work on surveillance, reporting and prevention of swine flu.

    DiFerdinando: This is really a 12-month activity that I think most people in public health are thinking about. If something’s a 12-month activity, it can’t be a headline everyday or else we’ll all wear out.

    The good news is that this flu doesn’t seem anymore dangerous than the annual flu, says Marla Gold. She’s the dean of public health at Drexel University. She says people should continue to adhere to hygiene and prevention guidelines from public health officials.

    Gold: The two most important things for the public to understand right now: 1. That it’s still a novel virus or a new virus that the human population has never seen. And 2, there’s no immunity by any vaccine that we’ve ever had.

    Pharmaceutical companies are preparing to make large quantities of H1N1 vaccine available by next fall’s flu season. Gold says she expects more cases will pop up in the coming weeks, before the flu disappears for the summer.

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