Swine flu is no longer the threat it used to be, scientists from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said on Tuesday.
According to their new report, which looks at studies of the 2009-10 pandemic carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 59% of the total U.S. population (about 183 Americans) have some immunity to the H1N1 virus because they were exposed to related viruses or vaccines prior to 2009, were immunized against H1N1 or developed immunity following infection with the pandemic virus.
Generally speaking, when a virus reaches that level of immunity, it persists in a form that causes relatively few cases of death. Researchers said that the population’s immunity is likely to increase further through immunization with 2010-2011 seasonal influenza vaccines, which contain the pH1N1 strain. As a point of reference, researchers examined a number of earlier pandemics and traced paths taken by similar flu viruses.
“Many gaps remain in understanding how a given pandemic influenza virus adapts to increased immunity in humans,” NIH said in a press release on the subject. “For that reason, influenza vaccination for everyone older than six months is a wise public health measure to maintain high levels of population-wide immunity.”
Back in February, the CDC recommended that all people six months and older receive a flu vaccination during the 2010-2011 flu season, expanding its guidelines from the year before, when it advised only patients six months through 18 years and those in close contact with these higher risk persons get vaccinated.
This year, health care providers around the country are offering an all-in-one flu vaccine that protects against both the H1N1 and seasonal influenza. While researchers have expressed “a cautious optimism” for the decreasing risk of a pandemic, they urge Americans to continue to take proper precautions this flu season, such as getting the vaccine and washing your hands regularly.