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Officials report fewer H1N1 cases in April

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Reported hospitalizations linked to the Type-A Novel H1N1 influenza virus have declined in recent weeks, according to the Georgia Department of Community Health.

"We have been experiencing significant decreases in influenza activity in Georgia, during the month of April," said Public Health Communications Manager Ravae Graham.

Graham said activity levels have been reduced from "regional" at the start of April, to "sporadic" activity during the last week of the month.

"This is consistent with other states in the Southeast, and likely reflects real decreases in virus circulation and decreases in susceptible populations," she added.

The state Department of Community Health reported one confirmed H1N1-related hospitalization, and no H1N1-linked deaths, statewide for the week of April 18 through April 24.

There were fewer than 30 hospitalizations and seven deaths for the month, through April 24, according to department data, down from some 130 cases and five deaths in March. The data also reveals that there have been 1,058 hospitalizations and 75 deaths tied to H1N1 over the past year. Public health officials warn, however, that fewer confirmed cases of H1N1 does not correlate to the virus' inactivity.

"Just because there's one hospitalization, it does not mean that this is going away," said Hayla Hall, risk communicator for District 4 Health Services, which includes Henry County.

No states have reported widespread or regional influenza activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though some states, like Georgia and Alabama, continue to report sporadic influenza activity.

"There is nothing to say that it won't continue this year, all summer long, like it did last year," Hall said.

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the first confirmed case of H1N1 in Georgia.

Hall said Georgia saw the number of H1N1 cases peak in the summer of 2009, leading into the fall, following a more subdued late spring and early summer.

"It's important for people to realize that, just because it's not our typical flu season, it doesn't mean that they aren't in danger of acquiring it," she said. "They still could get H1N1.

"People got vaccinated, so we know something worked," she added. "I think that people have learned the importance of hand washing, avoiding people who are sick, and staying home if they are sick."

For information about flu prevention, visit www.health.state.ga.us/h1n1flu, or call 1-888-H1N1-INFO (1-888-4161-4636).