CDC: Swine Flu Cases Widespread And Rising The 2009 H1N1 virus has spread across the United States, with millions infected. The virus is mostly causing complications in children and young people. Overall pediatric deaths and hospitalization rates from flu are higher than usual and continue to climb.
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CDC: Swine Flu Cases Widespread And Rising

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CDC: Swine Flu Cases Widespread And Rising

CDC: Swine Flu Cases Widespread And Rising

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris in Washington.


And I'm Melissa Block at NPR West in California.

It's been a week of long lines and frustration as swine flu spreads across the country and a lot of people who want the vaccine can't get it. We are going to hear about some of those frustrations and about widespread school closings.

We begin with NPR's Joanne Silberner, who's in Atlanta; that's home of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And, Joanne, what's the latest you're hearing from the CDC?

JOANNE SILBERNER: Well, the big issue this week has been vaccine availability. Tom Frieden is the head of the Centers for Disease Control and he talked about the vaccine situation today at a press conference. And the very first thing he said was that while vaccine availability is increasing, it's increasing far too slowly. And he said it was very frustrating. And there's a second issue, which is how quickly the virus is spreading. He talked about that today, too. And also, the Department of Education put out a report saying there was twice as many kids out of school today as there was yesterday. It's still a really tiny percentage of the number of students, but the point is it's growing.

BLOCK: And when Tom Frieden talks about the vaccine availability increasing, but far too slowly, why is that? What's going on with the production?

SILBERNER: Well, first let me say it became available before anyone expected, a couple weeks early. But the production is slow and the problem is the vaccine virus is - it just is growing slowly. And for reasons that are known only to the virus, it's just not as fast as others. There are some viruses that grow quickly, some slowly. And this happens to be a slower one. Some manufacturers are doing little bit better than others. It's not anything to do with safety, it's just how quickly this thing is growing in culture.

BLOCK: You mean for the manufacturers themselves.


BLOCK: Well, how much vaccine is out there right now?

SILBERNER: Well, as of Wednesday, it was 14.1 million doses, now 11.3 million of that's already been shipped out to the states. The government, at one point, was aiming for 40 million doses by the end of this month. And that's clearly not going to happen. They're still saying that there'll be much more around in November and December.

BLOCK: But obviously swine flu is here now, it's very widespread. Has it reached anything nearing a peak?

SILBERNER: Well, how about if I tell you that next year? I mean, no one can tell when a peak comes until it's over. And even if it does start to slide down, even if there are fewer cases, you never know when it's going to come back. I mean, flus do come back - rarely, but they do. I hate to compare this to the 1918 flu because that one was a deadly one, very deadly. This one is much less often a problem like that. But that came back twice after the first run through.

BLOCK: Joanne, it has been a big concern for the government convincing people that the H1N1 vaccine is safe. But we are now, as we mentioned, hearing about these long lines, people who want the vaccine and can't get it. How big a challenge is the safety issue for the people at the CDC?

SILBERNER: It's a great big challenge and there's a real irony here because the government officials are really trying to convince people to accept the vaccine. At the same time, they're saying there's not enough around. The really big issue here is pregnant women because they are much more likely to have serious problems. They are six times more likely to die if they get infected. And, in fact today, three physicians' groups, including the obstetricians' group, just sent out messages to all the members saying to get their pregnant patients -to really urge them to get the vaccine.

BLOCK: Okay. NPR's Joanne Silberner in Atlanta, thank you.

SILBERNER: Thank you.

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