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Swine flu death toll surpasses 11,000

A new government estimate says swine flu has sickened about 55 million Americans and killed about 11,160.
Image: Sky Byrem winces as she's vaccinated against swine flu
Sky Byrem, 7, of Annville, Pa., is given the H1N1 vaccine by Jennifer Shirk with the Department of Health as she is held by her mother Christina Bohr, left, at the Dauphin County State Health Center in Harrisburg, Pa.Carolyn Kaster / AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

A new government estimate says swine flu has sickened about 55 million Americans and killed about 11,160.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the estimates on Friday, which cover roughly the first eight months of the pandemic — from April through mid-December. The CDC last estimated that through mid-November, the pandemic had sickened 50 million Americans and killed 10,000.

Swine flu infections have been waning since late October, and no states were reporting widespread cases as of last week.

About 1 in 5 Americans have been vaccinated against swine flu so far, according to the government's first detailed estimates of vaccination rates against the new pandemic.

The estimate is based on two government telephone surveys done in December and early January. The surveys concluded that an estimate 61 million people — or about 20 percent of the population — got a shot or nasal spray vaccination against swine flu since the vaccine became available this fall.

CDC officials said the numbers are good, considering it's a preliminary report about a hurried campaign against a novel flu virus, using a vaccine that did not become available to the general public until early October — and, then, only in limited supplies.

"From our point of view, this looks very successful," said the spokesman, Richard Quartarone.

It also shows that vaccination rates were a bit higher for people deemed to be especially vulnerable to the new influenza, including pregnant women, children and people with underlying health conditions. About 28 percent of the 160 million in those targeted groups got vaccine.

Also, about 29 percent of children ages 6 months through 18 years got vaccine.

Supplies improved as the year drew to a close, and more vaccination clinics took all comers. That explains why — as of the end of December — about 74 percent of administered doses had been given to people in the target groups, the CDC said.