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State reports no recent H1N1 activity

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Reported hospitalizations and deaths associated with the Type-A Novel H1N1 influenza virus have dried up in Georgia, according to the Georgia Department of Community Health.

Data from the department's web site indicates there have been no reported H1N1-associated cases of hospitalizations or deaths in Georgia since the week of May 9-15.

"That was very exciting," said District 4 Health Services Risk Communicator Hayla Hall, who covers Henry County. "Last year, we were seeing cases all summer long."

Between April 26, 2009 and Aug. 29, 2009, the State Department of Community Health logged 194 reported hospitalizations and seven deaths associated with the 2009 H1N1 strain of flu.

The department revealed that 1,060 hospitalizations and 80 deaths, state-wide, have been associated with H1N1 since the record-keeping began in April 2009.

"Ordinarily, we'd expect to see the largest increase during the peek time of January and February," Hall said. "When supply was low [last fall], there was high demand for the H1N1 flu vaccine."

She said the demand for H1N1 vaccinations has not reached the same pitch this spring, as the number of reported cases has declined sharply.

"It's nice to be able to say that, maybe, we're going to be all right," continued Hall. "Hopefully, enough people received vaccinations and maintain good personal hygiene, to avoid further spread of it."

The virus' muted presence has been experienced, not only Georgia, but in 33 other states and the District of Columbia, according to A Weekly Influenza Surveillance Report produced by the Influenza Division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC's report suggested that H1N1 flu activity all but ceased in late May, in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Guam, Puerto Rico, and 13 other states, including Florida, reported sporadic influenza activity, while Hawaii reported heftier local activity.

"The decrease in H1N1 hospitalizations and deaths is definitely encouraging, but the H1N1 strain will likely be the predominant strain of flu during the fall season," said Ravae Graham, public health communications manager in the state's Department of Community Health Division of Public Health. "Public Health will continue to monitor influenza throughout the summer to detect increases in flu activity."

The H1N1 vaccine is still available at the Clayton County Board of Health, for those needing protection against the virus, said Board of Health Spokeswoman Veronda Griffin.

The board has seen a decrease in the number of people getting vaccinated this spring, but is prepared to see a normal rise in demand later this fall, said Griffin.

By then, residents will be able to get immunized against H1N1 through the seasonal flu vaccination, which will include coverage of the 2009 H1N1 virus. She said the board ordered seasonal flu vaccines in January, expecting to have it sometime in September or October.

"Seasonal flu vaccines typically include the previous year's strain," Griffin said. "We encourage anyone that wants to get the seasonal flu vaccine, as soon as it is available, to come to us and get the vaccination."

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