It was a year ago this week — the last week of school, for us — that the kids in my older daughter’s classroom started falling ill left and right with a strange stomach virus that included coughing and fever. It stood out because it was so unusual to see so many kids out that last week of school. Now I wonder if it wasn’t that early first wave of H1N1 going through.
Last spring was the first time we’d ever heard of novel influenza A (H1N1), as it’s officially called, also known as swine flu when it burst onto the scene in Mexico (though experts say it may have actually been born in the U.S.). There were several hot pockets around the country during the spring and summer, but the fall was when H1N1 hit the nation in earnest.
In all, it infected between 20 and 60 percent of the population, say experts, hitting children and teens especially hard. H1N1 hospitalized thousands of children, with 276 official pediatric deaths, and the virus was especially dangerous for pregnant women.
Today, the WHO announced that although the virus is still circulating, even in places that are seeing a resurgence — like the Caribbean and Southest Asia — infection rates are low. And the best news of all? They believe that the intense pandemic phase of H1N1 is over. We’ll likely still see some it come winter and fall again, especially since the H1N1 vaccine was not very popular, but hopefully it won’t be a fall and winter full of overflowing ERs and closed schools.
Whether or not that was really a spring wave, our elementary school got hit with verified H1N1 last fall. Forty percent of students were sick with H1N1 or something resembling it, so the school was closed for four days while the kids were nursed back to health. (Ironically, all of the preschoolers stayed healthy, including my own.) It was a scary time, and concerned parents everywhere are more than happy to see H1N1 finally hit the high road.
The CDC’s final report of the 2009-2010 flu season is up, if you want to see how this flu season compared to early years.
Photo: USACE Europe District, Flickr