By Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, AJN editor-in-chief emeritus

At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) press briefing yesterday on pandemic H1N1 influenza, spokesperson Dr. Anne Schuchat noted that while H1N1 activity was down, the virus was still more prevalent than what is normally seen for influenza. Warning that people should still get immunized against it, she also noted, “We also saw an uptick in pneumonia or influenza deaths in this past week.  And that isn’t something that we necessarily see around the Christmas holiday.”

The CDC is worrying about a growing complacency among the public. To illustrate the need for continued vigilance and immunizations, she showed this graph (also reproduced below) mapping the deaths from the 1957 influenza activity. You’ll note there was an initial wave in fall 1957, followed by a lull in which deaths decreased, and then a resurgence in which the number of deaths peaked in March 1958, close to the level in the first wave.

Hit it while it’s down. According to Schuchat, the lull (where we currently are) “essentially gave the all-clear whistle in that

[1957] December/January time period.” “They had vaccine,” she noted, “but they didn’t encourage its use.” For now, she said, the message is this: “The illness is down.  There’s plenty of vaccine.  It’s a key window of opportunity. We don’t want to repeat the story from 1957.”

Nuff said.