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As Swine Flu Fades, Experts Ponder Next Season
Date:2/5/2010

Some believe H1N1 will persist for years to come, but in what form remains unclear

FRIDAY, Feb. 5 (HealthDay News) -- After nearly a year of headlines, worry and confusion, the H1N1 swine flu virus is now out of the news. Is it out of circulation as well?

The latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds no states reporting widespread influenza activity and only five reporting regional activity.

But to say the virus has disappeared is an overstatement, said CDC spokesman Tom Skinner.

"We're still seeing activity across the country. It's certainly not at the levels of late October, early November, but activity is still going on, and we have many weeks left in our flu season," he stated. "It's too early to say this is over."

Other experts agreed.

"It certainly seems to have died down in this country. It's gone very quiet," confirmed David Topham, co-director of the New York Influenza Center of Excellence and associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Rochester (N.Y.) Medical Center.

Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said his office still sees the occasional swine flu patient, but fewer than it did last spring, summer and fall.

"It's not completely over. It's just that the number of cases and certainly the death rate and pediatric death rates have fallen so drastically that we're not hearing so much about it," he said.

Topham agreed that the United States hasn't seen the last of this flu strain. "I'm pretty confident that this virus is here to stay with us. It will become one of the seasonal influenzas we'll have to contend with," he said.

But just what form that might take remains a mystery.

Could this be the start of a two-seasonal-flu era? Or will H1N1 assume the mantle of seasonal flu, taking over from H3N2, the traditional strain of
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