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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that counting related illnesses the number of deaths from the H1N1 virus is about four times earlier estimates.
Federal health officials now say nearly 4,000 Americans have died from the H1N1 virus since it first emerged in April. Previous estimates put the number of fatalities at around 1,000, but the death toll has been recalculated to include deaths from flu-related complications, such as pneumonia and bacterial infections.
The CDC estimates that 22 million Americans have gotten the virus and close to 100,000 have been hospitalized.
Eight million children have been infected. 540 have died.
The CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat, calls these numbers alarming. "I have already seen a larger number of deaths than we have had for several years - I do believe that pediatric death toll from this pandemic will be extensive and much greater than what we see with seasonal flu," she says.
Last week, the World Health Organization announced that more than 6,000 people worldwide have died from H1N1 flu. The WHO says that, as of November 1, some 200 countries and territories have reported close to a half-million confirmed cases. WHO officials say the actual number is probably higher.
Dr. Schuchat says people in high risk categories such as those with diabetes have to be especially cautious. "When people with diabetes get flu, it can be more difficult for them to manage their blood sugar. They can suffer high and low blood sugar. So paying special attention with flu when you have diabetes is important," she says.
Many doctors say the H1N1 vaccine is the best protection against the virus. The problem is -- there is still a shortage. The only company making the vaccine in the U.S. is behind schedule, but supplies are expected to increase before the year's end. "As the supply increases we do think that access and convenience and ease to getting vaccinated will improve," she says.
That's little comfort for Margaret Savitts. Her husband Walter contracted a serious case of H1N1. "By Saturday night he couldn't breathe. He was having a really hard time. And by 2 am Monday morning, he was in full respiratory failure," she says.
The H1N1 virus is different from normal, seasonal flu, in that it persisted during the summer months and affects relatively healthy people.