FRIDAY, Jan. 15 (HealthDay News) -- An estimated 55 million people in the United States were infected with the H1N1 swine flu from the time the disease first emerged in mid-April until mid-December, and approximately 11,200 people died, federal officials reported Friday.
The flu, which is no longer causing widespread activity after peaking in November in 48 states, has also led to an estimated 246,000 hospitalizations, according to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although swine flu infections are declining, health officials stress that there could be a resurgence of the disease. So they're urging people to get vaccinated against the H1N1 virus, especially since vaccine supplies are now plentiful.
"Flu is unpredictable, and this flu season is far from over," Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said earlier this week. "Flu season typically lasts until May, and we don't know whether there will be additional waves of flu illness. H1N1 is still circulating, it's still dangerous, and there are still lives to be saved. That's why it's so critical for everyone to get vaccinated.
"While over 60 million people have received the H1N1 vaccine, over three-fifths of Americans have not yet gotten it," she added.
Most states have opened up their H1N1 swine flu vaccination programs to anyone who wants a shot, not just those at high risk for complications from the disease, she said. Those at high risk include children and young adults, pregnant women and people with chronic health problems such as asthma and heart disease.
For most people, the H1N1 flu causes mild-to-moderate symptoms that typically clear up in about a week.
What sets the swine flu apart from the regular seasonal flu is that the H1N1 virus tends to target children and adults under age 60, while the seasonal flu typically strikes hardest at people 65 and older.
By way of comparison, the regular seasonal flu hospitalizes more than 250,000 Americans every year and causes an estimated 36,000 deaths.
To learn more about the H1N1 swine flu, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
SOURCES: Jan. 15, 2010, news release, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Web site