CDC: Swine flu cases seem to be dropping in US


by LINDA BRILL / KING 5 News and Associated Press

Posted on November 20, 2009 at 4:49 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

ATLANTA -  Health officials say swine flu cases appear to declining throughout most of the U.S., but the specter of Thanksgiving gatherings makes it hard to predict what will happen next.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that reports of swine flu illnesses were widespread in 43 states last week, down from 46 the week before.

In King County, the number of new swine flu cases has dropped by 20 percent. King County officials believe 132,000 people have already been infected and they think the vaccination program is paying off.

CDC officials also say reports have been increasing in a few states, including Maine and Hawaii. They say it's hard to know whether the epidemic has peaked or not, and many people will be gathering -- and spreading germs -- next week at Thanksgiving.

"This does not mean the epidemic is over, but it does provide a window of opportunity for those of us who have not been immunized to receive immunization over the coming weeks," said Dr. David Fleming, Director of King County Health Department.

So, health officials warn: Don't let your guard down, especially with the holidays just around the corner. Thanksgiving holidays bring families together - and the flu can come too.

"We also recommend people try to avoid traveling if they're symptomatic and exposing others," said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Seattle / King County Health Department.

Sea-Tac Airport is bustling with families on their way for the holidays, with children in tow in just about every long line.

In the back of many travelers' minds is the possible spread of swine flu on the airplane.

"I have my Purell with me and I'm a compulsive hand washer anyhow," said one traveler.

"They've been doing a good job wiping down the planes and stuff," said another visitor.

Health experts ask the public to continue with precautions, no matter where the holidays take you.

Health officials say the supply of vaccine is gradually improving; a small batch of shots come in every day. They think eventually they will be able to vaccinate everyone in the high risk group who needs it.