With the number of doctor visits for H1N1 continuing to drop sharply, it looks like it's safe to say that the swine flu pandemic has peaked for now, at least in the United States. That's great news for worrywart parents like me, because it means our children are less likely to fall ill. It also increases the odds that people who really need H1N1 vaccine—pregnant women and kids with asthma and other chronic health problems—can get it. That's still important, because children are still getting sick and dying, and there may well be a new spike of H1N1 cases in the new year.
As of December 1, 59 million doses of H1N1 vaccine had been shipped, according to federal vaccine supply data released yesterday. That's progress, but H1N1 vaccine is still too hard to get. Montgomery County, Md., where I live, is offering just three H1N1 shot clinics this month. But most places do seem to be doing a better job of making the vaccination process easier. Rather than make pregnant women and small children stand in line for hours, as I did when I got my daughter vaccinated back in October, my county is now taking advance reservations by phone. Now, that's customer service! I'm looking forward to the day when booking a flu shot is as easy as booking a restaurant reservation online, but we're not there yet.
One group is taking full advantage of the Internet during this outbreak: H1N1 scammers. First it was sites hawking fake Tamiflu; then others, including DrWeil.com, alleged that their herbal products could prevent swine flu. In fact, there have been so many fraudulent H1N1 products that the Food and Drug Administration has created an online database that makes it easier to find out which H1N1 products are bogus.
The latest scam is an H1N1 phishing E-mail, allegedly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that tells people to set up a "personal vaccination profile" at the CDC.gov website. If you click on the link, you end up not at the CDC site but at a site that installs malicious code (malware) on your computer so that the bad guys can commandeer it from afar to distribute spam and computer viruses. As if real viruses aren't enough! (Although given the choice, I'd take a sick computer over a sick kid any day.)
I wrote earlier about strategies for finding H1N1 vaccine when it's scarce. Have you been able to find H1N1 vaccine in your area? If so, how? Please share your success stories!