H1N1 Flu and Vaccine Update

1. The World Health Organization says there have been nearly 8,000 H1N1 deaths worldwide so far, with the total rising by more than 1,000 in a single week. WHO figures show at least 7,826 people worldwide have died since the H1N1 influenza virus first became apparent in Mexico in April, the BBC reported Saturday.

2. The second wave of the first influenza pandemic of the 21st century may have peaked in Canada, according to a new analysis of flu activity nationwide.

Sixty-one new deaths were reported in the week ending Nov. 21, down from 84 deaths reported the previous week. As of Nov. 26, 309 H1N1 deaths had been reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

3. Regardless of where the experts come down on the question of a third wave, they say one thing is a safe bet. Whether it’s this winter or next, the H1N1 flu will be back.

That’s something people vacillating over the value of getting vaccinated at this point should keep in mind, says Dr. Danuta Skowronski, an influenza epidemiologist at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control.

“The way I see it, basically people have two choices in general: Get immunized or get infected,” she says. “Because this virus isn’t going anywhere. It’s ours now.”

If this outbreak follows the pattern of previous pandemics — and there’s no reason to believe it won’t — the pandemic virus and its descendents will be among us for some undefined period of time. It could be years, it could be decades.