Increased incidence of novel influenza A (H1N1) virus infection in the Southeastern United States has prompted public health officials to again urge vaccination as the best defense against the flu.
Anne Schuchat, M.D., director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during a March 29 media briefing(www.cdc.gov) that Georgia has had a spike in cases during the past three weeks. That state has had more laboratory-confirmed cases of H1N1 hospitalizations -- including 40 in the past week -- than at any time since October.
Schuchat said there likely were more cases in the state that were not lab-confirmed.
She said the majority of recent lab-confirmed H1N1 hospitalizations have been in unvaccinated adults with underlying conditions that put them at higher risk of severe influenza.
Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina all are reporting regional influenza activity. Eight other states, primarily in the Southeast, are reporting local activity.
U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, M.D., M.B.A., said during the briefing that an estimated 60 million Americans have been infected with H1N1, causing about 265,000 hospitalizations and nearly 12,000 deaths.
Benjamin also said minorities have lower rates of coverage with the H1N1 vaccine, and it is important to remind them to get vaccinated because they experience higher rates of many chronic diseases, including diabetes and heart disease, putting them in high risk groups for severe influenza.
As of the week of March 22, 121 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine had been produced, according to Benjamin.
The 2010-2011 trivalent seasonal flu vaccine will include the 2009 influenza A (H1N1) virus. Schuchat said people who have not received the H1N1 vaccine should not wait for the seasonal flu vaccine to become available in the fall.
She added that people who have received the H1N1 vaccine also should receive the seasonal flu vaccine when it becomes available because it will offer protection against an influenza B strain and an influenza A (H3N2) strain, as well as H1N1.
The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, recently voted to expand the recommendation for annual influenza vaccination to include all people ages 6 months and older in whom the vaccine is not contraindicated.