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Health Officials Say Swine Flu Still A Threat

— A year ago, swine flu was a major issue. Now the attention to the so-called H1N1 virus has died down, but state health officials say the threat is still there.

A scientist cuts the end of a human saliva sample in a small-diameter glass tube during the analysis for a A(H1N1) virus, the influenza A(H1N1), commonly being referred to as 'swine flu', on August 14, 2009.
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Above: A scientist cuts the end of a human saliva sample in a small-diameter glass tube during the analysis for a A(H1N1) virus, the influenza A(H1N1), commonly being referred to as 'swine flu', on August 14, 2009.

It was last April that swine flu cases first started appearing. California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Mark Horton said the state’s been through two waves of the illness. About 9,000 Californians have been hospitalized with H1N1 and nearly 600 have died from the virus. Horton said though the pandemic has receded for now, H1N1 is still out there.

“When we’ve looked back historically what has happened with similar pandemics in the past -- there have been in many cases third and fourth waves,” said Horton.

Horton said if that does happen, the state still has a network of doctors set up to alert health officials. “The surveillance mechanisms are still in place to allow us to, at the earliest possible sign, to detect any re-increase of influenza activity in the community and we’ll be ramping that up again as we move closer to the fall,” Horton said.

Horton said the state is better prepared if there is another wave. That’s because up to 12 million Californians have been vaccinated against swine flu, and millions of others have some immunity because they’ve had the virus. Horton said the seasonal vaccine coming out this fall will include protection against H1N1.

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