WASHINGTON -- New swine flu infections continue to drop across the United States, confirmation that the pandemic’s fall wave has peaked, according to figures posted online Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But the number of children and teenagers killed by swine flu is still rising. An additional 27 deaths in lab-confirmed cases of it were reported among children and teenagers in the week ended Nov. 21, raising the total to 234 since April. In a typical flu season, there are fewer than 100 deaths among that segment of the population.
And since the C.D.C. believes that there are actually two to three deaths for each fatal lab-confirmed case, the total is presumably creeping toward 700.
But just 32 states, mostly in the Northeast and the West, reported “widespread” flu activity, down from 48 at the peak, in late October.
Overall doctors’ visits for flu declined for the fourth week in a row. Hospitalizations dropped for the third straight week, and, for the first time, there appeared to be a clear drop in weekly deaths. That defied pessimistic warnings from officials at the disease control agency that hospitalizations and deaths might keep rising, since most people are hospitalized days after first falling ill and may be treated for weeks before dying.
Experts at the agency have tentatively predicted that a new, but presumably smaller, January wave could emerge, brought on by students’ returning home for Christmas. Campus flu activity is declining but not gone.
Further, cases of seasonal flu are now being found occasionally. Among the 420 samples the agency has tested since September, it has found three cases of H3N2 flu, the strain that tends to be most lethal to the elderly; four cases of influenza B, which normally arrives late in the season; and one case of seasonal H1N1.
Flu experts have been watching to see whether the pandemic swine strain will “crowd out” seasonal ones. If it does not, there will soon be, in effect, two flu seasons running side by side, one tending to kill young people and one tending to kill the elderly.