U.S. health officials were bracing for a burst of flu cases around the Christmas holiday because of so many people traveling. Instead, reports so far suggest a sudden drop in new flu cases, particularly those of the H1N1 virus. Travel, it seems safe to say, is not the main factor in spreading the flu this season. The evidence points again to hand-contact surfaces in schools, most of which are closed this week, as the primary point of concern.
There is reason to hope that the two-week holiday break at most U.S. schools will be enough to break the flu trend, just as Mexico City’s two-week shutdown took away the momentum of the flu epidemic there last year. The World Health Organization (WHO) cautions, as they must, that we cannot assume the H1N1 pandemic is winding down now. A smaller second wave of infections could appear without warning. But four months after the peak of the first wave, there is still no sign of that happening.