Coy Parsley was not thinking about the H1N1 flu pandemic Wednesday afternoon. He was playing a friendly game of bridge at Edmond’s Senior Center in the Multi-Activity Center.

Parsley said he has been paying attention to various news reports about the world and local situation.

“I was surprised by some of the numbers,” Parsley said. “I thought there would be fewer cases over the summer.”

As far as the future is concerned, the Centers for Disease Control has said that based on the experience of the 1957 flu pandemic the number of Americans dying from H1N1 influenza during the next two years could range from 90,000 to several hundred thousand.

That projection would drop if the vaccine campaign and other measures are successful, U.S. health officials said. The first vaccines should be ready later this fall. Officials expect the U.S. soon may have up to 160 million doses of H1N1 vaccine available.

IPS Research, an Oklahoma City company, is accepting participants for its clinical drug trial that will test a new vaccine for H1N1 flu.

Fred Lee, director of business development for IPS Research, said the company is seeking participants in the 3- to 8-year-old and 65-plus age groups. More than 120 individuals have signed up, and the goal of 200 participants for each age group may be reached by the end of next week, Lee said.

“People are worried about the H1N1 flu because the regular flu shot does not protect against this virus,” Lee said.

A clinical drug trial is a part of the process by which new medications are tested in order to gain approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for general prescribing by doctors.

Current studies indicate the risk for infection among persons age 65 or older is less than the risk for younger age groups, according to the Centers for Disease Control. As vaccine supplies increase and demand for vaccine among younger age groups is met, programs and providers should offer vaccination to people in the 65-plus age group, officials say.

Parsley, 69, said he wasn’t aware of the upcoming local clinical drug trial, but he might consider participating, depending on the risks.

Lee said the H1N1 vaccine being tested by IPS Research does not involve a live influenza virus and side effects are expected to be the same as they are with the seasonal flu vaccine.

Companies making swine flu shots are struggling. The chief ingredient for influenza vaccine is grown in chicken eggs, and companies are getting far fewer doses per egg — 30 percent of the normal yield for regular winter flu vaccine, said FDA’s Dr. Jerry Weir.

State situation

In Oklahoma, the number of H1N1 cases peaked in May, declined and instead of subsiding during summer months case levels rose and have remained at a higher than normal level during the last couple of weeks, said Dr. Kristy Bradley, state epidemiologist.

This fall, after students start going back to school, the situation is expected to change. Local outbreaks may occur much earlier than the usual December-February onset of the flu season, Bradley said.

“We believe a challenging flu season lies ahead of us,” she said.

School officials are urged to be more vigilant in screening students as they return to school, Bradley said. Edmond Public Schools start session Aug. 18.

Currently, ongoing low level sporadic cases are being reported in the state, Bradley said. Lab confirmed H1N1 flu is being detected, but it is not causing outbreaks in a particular area, she said.

More people are becoming infected due to wider circulation of the virus, Bradley said. Exact numbers are impossible to calculate, but state health officials will continue to monitor the situation with methods used to track seasonal flu, she said.

To date, one Oklahoman, a 43-year-old Kay County man, has died from the H1N1 virus, Bradley said. In June, the World Health Organization declared the H1N1 flu pandemic. Most U.S. cases have not required hospitalization.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS contributed to this report.

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