The Power of III
but health care officials predict the possibility of a more severe "third wave" between Nov-Jan:
Although the H1N1 outbreak appears to be waning at a time when most flu seasons are just beginning, Memphis-area health officials expect the swine-flu virus to come roaring back -- possibly during an even more severe "third wave" of infections this winter.
For now, however, local statistics on the epidemic show a sharp drop. At Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center, weekly positive tests for H1N1 have fallen to less than one-fifth the nearly 450 reported in early September. And the emergency department is seeing barely half the patients it did six weeks ago. . . . . . .
But far from being an indication the epidemic is over, the lull probably suggests only that the second wave of cases -- one that began when schools reopened in August -- has crested, English and other experts say. The first wave occurred as the H1N1 spread across the nation during the spring.
"I would not at all be lured into any sense of comfort that we have passed a crisis stage," said Dr. Kenneth S. Robinson, health officer for Shelby County. . . . . . .
The initial shipments of vaccine this month -- including the 3,000 doses of injectable vaccine and 500 doses of Flu Mist vaccine that arrived this week -- probably have not been a factor in the decline in H1N1 cases. The vaccine so far "hasn't been widely used enough" to account for the improvement, English said.
Because flu viruses tend to circulate more during the winter, health officials say a third wave of H1N1 cases could start soon.
"It could come back in November, December and January and be even more severe," English said.
Dr. John DeVincenzo, professor of pediatrics and molecular sciences at UT and clinical director of the virology lab at Le Bonheur, said H1N1 is less likely to "peter out" than the seasonal flu.
Until at least one-fourth to one-third of local residents are immune to the virus -- either from having contracted it or from vaccination -- the area can expect to see "sustained epidemic activity," DeVincenzo said. . . .