Cases of swine flu continue to spread, but public concern over the virus is beginning to wane.
The outbreak of H1N1 swine flu continues to spread in the Delaware Valley. Delaware’s case count is up to at least 20, and Pennsylvania yesterday reported its first infected resident. Health experts gathered at the Philadelphia College of Physicians this morning to tell the public what’s next.
Although additional cases of this new H1N1 virus continue to pop up, health officials are hopeful it will wind down for the summer. Influenza season typically runs from October to May in the United States. University of Pennsylvania professor Harvey Rubin told reporters scientists don’t know how the H1N1 bug may change during its summer hiatus.
Rubin: Come next fall next winter, we may see this particular strain of virus, but it could come back in a more virulent way.
Or, it could fizzle. In the mean time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are taking the first steps toward developing a vaccine, which could be available in the fall. Health officials say people should not stockpile their own stash of anti-viral medications, or take them preventively. Instead, hand washing and surveillance are more appropriate measures.
Public concern over the virus is beginning to wane. A Gallup poll of a thousand people finds 19 percent are concerned about contracting flu. That’s down from 25 percent last week. A Qunnnipiac University poll found most Pennsylvanians feel media coverage of swine flu has been overblown. Thomas Grace from the Delaware Valley Healthcare Council says that some messages are still not getting out.
Grace: The first thing I would say is all is well…That’s where we are. From the hospital perspective, we have no patients with H1N1 in our hospital care.
There are myriad unknowns about how the H1N1 flu will play out in the coming year. Esther Chernak, an infectious disease expert with the city of Philadelphia, says she’s still learning about the more common flu.
Chernak: We thought flu season was over, but in fact, it’s really not. Were seeing a lot of seasonal, what we call regular wintertime flu that’s still lingering. We never really looked this hard in May before and sure enough we’re finding it.
More than 30,000 people die from flu-related illness in the United States each year. So far, the H1N1 bug has killed one child in Texas. The local cases have all been mild.