Federal health officials report that across the nation, the level of flu activity related to the H1N1 virus has dropped for the fourth week in a row. This indicates that the second wave of the pandemic in the United States has peaked. Thomas Skinner, spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, confirms that it's certainly on the downward slope of the curve. Officials still caution cases could surge again.
"We're far from being out of the woods. There's still a lot of flu out there," Skinner said. "And we wouldn't be surprised to see another up-tick in activity as we approach the end of December and beginning of January, when kids come back from Christmas break."
Richard Wenzel, an infectious disease specialist at Virginia Commonwealth University predicts that if there is another surge, it will be relatively mild because millions of people have either been exposed to the virus or will have been vaccinated.
On the vaccination front - the first 2009 Novel H1N1 swine vaccine is in use but its distribution is being controlled. Hank Harris, a professor of animal science at Iowa State University, developed the vaccine and has been shipping preventive doses to swine producers in Iowa, Kansas and Illinois for several weeks. He has also shipped the vaccine to a herd in Indiana that had a confirmed diagnosis for the presence of the virus.
The vaccine is being manufactured through Iowa State University. However, Harris says distribution of the drug is limited. It must be prescribed by a licensed vet that has an already-established relationship not only with the buyer but with Harris' company, as well, and the vet must oversee its administration.