RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – New numbers show the swine flu may finally be on its way out of Virginia but experts warn: there's still plenty of virus to go around. Doctors say the virus typically lingers for several weeks after the peak and, another wave of the virus is possible...even as this current wave appears to be ending.
At the mid-way point of November, health officials say flu activity remains high. More than 22,000 people in the U.S. have been hospitalized by H1-N1. 877 have died but there is some talk that the numbers may have hit their peak.
The numbers appear to be heading downward in Virginia. For example, in October of this year- about 15% of all hospital or urgent case visits were for flu-like illness. This month, that number dropped to about 10 %. Still, that's several points higher than the same month in 2008. So experts are being cautious.
"But I'm not sure what that really means. It may be a little early to declare that we're on the downward side of this outbreak," said Dr. Donald Stern, Richmond Health District.
Broken down by health district, 10 to 20% of hospital and urgent care visits in Richmond, Henrico, and Chesterfield, were for flu-like illness last month. Now, the numbers are down by half, except in Chesterfield...an indication that there is plenty of virus still around.
"People need to get their vaccine," Dr. Stern said.
More than 13,000 doses of the vaccine have been delivered to central Virginia...most of which are now being directed to priority groups, like young children, where infections are still much higher compared to other age groups. Doctors say that's still a concern.
"Why are some of the young folks having this kind of inflammatory response, hospitalization, and some deaths in that age group? That hasn't clearly been worked out yet," he said.
An adequate supply of the H1-N1 vaccine for the general population is expected in early or mid-December. In the meantime, the recommendations for good hand washing and staying home when you're sick remain firmly in place.