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Number of H1N1 patients declines, but calls for patience continue

Bad bugs are a bit like those giant mutant insects from sci-fi flicks of yore: Just when you think the world is safe, he-e-ere comes another one lumbering over the hill.

The CDC is reporting widespread outbreaks of H1N1 pandemic influenza in only one state, Alabama. Naturally, many Americans who have gone unvaccinated - some by choice and others subjected to a wrenching shortage of vaccine supplies just when they would have done the most good (and when hysteria was at its peak pitch) - may think the moment for immunization is past.

Far from it. As Reuters reports today:

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) warned that flu viruses "never stand still" and said governments should not relax H1N1 flu vaccination programs, but remain on guard for possible changes in the virus and new strains. . . . An earlier pandemic in 1957-58 also declined before Christmas 1957, but then came back to cause a rise in flu-related deaths in the new year of 1958.

By the way, the ECDC suggests that the current waning of H1N1 opens up running room for the more-familiar but often equally or more nasty circulating seasonal strains. If you haven't yet had that shot, now's as good a time as any. Defying standard immunological thinking, the two different vaccines might even provide some cross-protection.

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