Florida is no longer seeing widespread cases of H1N1 flu, a strong sign that the virus has peaked in the state. But health officials stressed that the public needs to continue taking steps to prevent its spread.
"Our hope at this point is that people continue to take this seriously so we don't see a second wave of the virus," said Steve Huard, Hillsborough County Health Department spokesman.
Huard said people should continue to wash their hands frequently, stay home from school or work if they're ill, and get vaccinated.
The latter has become much easier this week, with increased supplies of the H1N1 vaccine in the Tampa Bay area. Area public health departments have made the vaccine available to everyone who wants to receive it, not just those in the priority groups. And private clinics and drug stores such as Walgreens and CVS have vaccine doses available.
Only 14 states are seeing widespread flu cases, according to the latest figures released today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's down from 25 states a week ago and 48 states in late October. Widespread flu activity means that flu outbreaks or increases in flu-like illnesses are being reported in at least half of the regions in the state.
Florida is among 25 states that are reporting regional flu activity, which means that flu outbreaks and increases in flu-like illnesses are being reported in at least two, but less than half the regions in the state.
"It means that we're seeing a point where we may be leveling off," Huard said. "It may very well mean that people have been paying attention and getting vaccinated.
"But it's definitely not time to relax," Huard stressed. "With people shopping and gathering for the holidays, one gift you don't want to bring to your friends and family is swine flu."
Richard Martin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8330