CDC: H1N1 Sickened 57M Americans

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Swine flu cases are down, but health officials say the disease's cumulative impact has grown to 57 million U.S. illnesses, 257,000 hospitalizations and 11,690 deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the new estimates Friday. They represent cases from the time swine flu was first identified in April through mid-January - the first nine months of the pandemic.

The numbers represent increases of about 4 percent from the CDC's last estimates, which covered the first eight months. New swine flu cases peaked in October but declined since, and have not been widespread in any state for more than a month.

CBSNews.com Special Report: H1N1

On Thursday, a World Health Organization official said they will hold an expert meeting later this month to consider whether the swine flu pandemic's peak has passed,.

WHO's emergency committee will give its verdict to U.N. health chief Margaret Chan on whether the global outbreak has entered a "transition period," the agency's flu chief Keiji Fukuda said.

"This is a period in which we consider that the pandemic is still continuing," but that the worst of the outbreak is over, he said.

WHO declared swine flu a pandemic last June, when it announced the virus had reached "phase six" on its alert scale - the agency's highest designation.

"The post-peak phase is different from phase six, but it indicates that there is ongoing pandemic activity," Fukuda said later in a telephone interview. "It is a movement toward the post-pandemic period."

The experts will consider what measures governments should take to continue monitoring and combating the spread of the disease, he said.

"We hope that the worst is over but you can't suddenly let down your guard," Fukuda said.

He said the exact date of the meeting had not yet been set.

There have been over 15,000 laboratory confirmed deaths worldwide since the swine flu outbreak began in North America last spring. WHO says the actual death toll is probably much higher, but a final figure won't be available for 1-2 years.

WHO experts will also examine whether to advise governments and drug companies to include the swine flu strain in future vaccines for seasonal influenza, a move Fukuda said was likely given that the H1N1 strain will continue circulating for some time.

Although infections have declined in the Northern Hemisphere lately, WHO says it is still receiving reports of new outbreaks elsewhere, including most recently in West Africa.
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