New activity reported in southeastern U.S.; health officials still urge vaccinations
MONDAY, March 29 (HealthDay News) -- The H1N1 swine flu virus is still circulating in the United States, and health officials have noted a troubling uptick in the number of cases in several southeastern states, particularly Georgia, in recent weeks, U.S. health experts said Monday.
"We are continuing to see people with serious illness from H1N1 pandemic virus, especially in some of the southeastern states," Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during an afternoon press conference. "Although disease rates are much lower on average around the country than last fall, H1N1 is still circulating and people continue to become ill and be hospitalized and to die from this virus."
Most concerning is the unexpected surge in flu activity in the Southeast. Georgia saw 40 hospitalizations last week alone, as well as increases during the three weeks before that, Schuchat said.
"Georgia has seen more laboratory-confirmed influenza-related hospitalizations than at any time since October and the data suggest that the increase in hospitalizations is caused by H1N1, not by other seasonal influenza viruses," she said.
In addition to Georgia, regional H1N1 flu activity has been reported in Alabama and South Carolina, while local activity is being reported in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and, further west, New Mexico and Hawaii. Puerto Rico is also reporting local outbreaks, she said.
Schuchat said she could not predict if other states would see a similar surge in H1N1 activity in the coming weeks, but she said she could not rule out a resurgence of the disease.
"It's too early to say we're not going to see increases in other areas," she said. "But we're worried that we'll see additional cases happening day in and day out
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