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Where Has The Swine Flu Gone?

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Cases of swine flu have dropped dramatically. So has the demand for vaccinations.

— Cases of swine flu have dropped dramatically. So has the demand for vaccinations.

In the first week of last November there were nearly 800 hospitalizations in California related to swine flu. The first week of this month, there were only 15. San Diego county hasn't had a swine-flu related death yet this year. Karen Waters-Montijo, with the county health department, said she'd like to believe the push to vaccinate people last year caused the recent drop in cases. But people shouldn't assume flu is done for the season.

"Flu is unpredictable and last year around this time, we were all saying 'Oh, it looks like we've had a mild flu season.' Then it was in April that first cases of H1N1 were discovered," said Waters-Montijo.

People who study the flu say novel pandemic viruses, like H1N1, are especially unpredictable since they don't come and go with flu season. That explains why swine flu has waned this year at a time when seasonal flu might have peaked. H1N1 has been more likely to affect the young than the old. It has been linked to fewer deaths, relative to population, than the average seasonal flu. But Eileen Yamada, with the state health department, said that's not because it's been less virulent.

"I think a lot of that has to do with the populations that were affected," she said. "The younger populations, particularly the younger adults and teens, tend not to have the death rate that our elderly populations do."

Another wave of swine flu is possible. San Diego health officials say it could come when college students gather for spring break vacations.

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