About Amy Umble:
Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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Dr. Levine on H1N1

Dr. Mark Levine was in town last week to talk about the H1N1 virus and vaccination program.Vaccination

Levine is deputy commissioner for the Virginia Department of Health. He was one of the featured speakers Friday at the 88th Annual Virginia State PTA Convention at the Fredericksburg Expo and Conference Center.

Some points Levine made during his talk:

·         If this pandemic is like others before it, it will last between one and two years and appear in waves, with the number of cases rising then falling. “Pandemics are not events that come and go rapidly,” Levine said.

·         The incidence of the disease seems to be reaching one of those peaks now, but the level is still higher than one would expect from seasonal flu at this time of year.

·         H1N1 causes a mild disease in most people, he said. Most people suffer for about three-to-four days and do not require medical care. Still the disease has caused 9,000 hospitalizations and 600 deaths nationwide. “It could be much worse, but it’s not benign either,” Levine said.

·         The vaccine continues to be safe and effective, similar to the seasonal flu vaccine. One million doses have been delivered to Virginia, for its 7.7 million people. About 3.5 million people in the state fall in one of the groups that the CDC has designated as top priority to get the vaccine.

·         The disease is about 7 months old, and the fact that there is a vaccine available now is “astonishing,” Levine said. Usually it would take from eight months to a year to develop a vaccine.

·         The supply of vaccine should improve soon as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the license of a new producer, GlaxoSmithKline. The company says it expects to deliver 7.6 million doses of vaccine by the end of the year.