CDC: Swine flu cases down, but virus still prevalent



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Posted on December 4, 2009 at 7:05 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

There's new evidence the swine flu vaccine is safe, the Centers for Disease Control said Friday.  And for the fifth straight week, the number of swine flu cases has dropped.

While this is good news, experts caution there's no guarantee that swine flu is going away for good. New safety data shows the swine flu vaccine is not likely to cause the paralyzing Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

"We're very confident at this point that the kind of problem we saw in 1976 is really, really unlikely to occur,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control.

That's because science has improved the vaccine.

"So we're getting purer amounts of the actual viral protein in the vaccines compared to what was available 30 years ago," Dr. Harvey Fineberg, Institute of Medicine.

It’s a safer vaccine, but not enough of it.  Seventy-three million doses have been produced now, mostly for high-risk groups, especially pregnant women and those under 24.  Finding the vaccine may depend on where you live. Some communities have plenty; others don't.

"We have just run out of all H1N1 flu shot and flu mist," said Fineberg.

But there's good news. The CDC says only 25 states now have widespread swine flu - seven fewer than last week. But even that is much higher than normal.

"All bets are off for what the future will hold the rest of this year," said Frieden.

Seventeen more children died last week, bringing the total number since April to 210, more than three times the pediatric death rate of a typical flu season.