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11 more children die of swine flu




WASHINGTON

As the swine flu outbreak strikes the U.S. early and hard, health officials note a worrisome number of child deaths and warn that supplies of vaccine will remain scarce for at least the next several days.

Delays in producing the vaccine mean 28 million to 30 million doses, at most, will be divided around the country by the end of the month, not the 40 million-plus states had been expecting. The new count from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention means anxiously awaited flu-shot clinics in some parts of the U.S. may have to be postponed.

It also delays efforts to blunt increasing infections. Overall, what CDC calls the 2009 H1N1 flu is causing widespread disease in 41 states, and about 6 percent of all doctor visits are for flu-like illness — levels not normally seen until much later in the fall.

Federal health officials said 11 more children died last week because of the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about half of the child deaths since September have been among teenagers.

And overall for the country, deaths from pneumonia and flu-like illnesses have passed what CDC considers an epidemic level.

“These are very sobering statistics,” says the CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat.

This new strain is different from regular winter flu because it strikes the young far more than the old, and child deaths are drawing particular attention. Eighty-six children have died of swine flu in the U.S. since it burst on the scene last spring — 43 of those deaths reported in September and early October alone, said Schuchat.

That’s a startling number because in some past winters, the CDC has counted 40 or 50 child deaths for the entire flu season, she said, and no one knows how long this swine flu outbreak will last.

Also in contrast to regular winter flu, swine flu sometimes can cause a very severe viral pneumonia in otherwise healthy young adults, the World Health Organization warned.


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