– The Associated Press

ATLANTA – Health officials are renewing their push for Americans to get swine flu vaccinations following a recent rise in hospital cases in Georgia.

No other state has had such an increase in hospitalizations, and overall swine flu cases and deaths have been down for months. But in the past two weeks, 70 to 80 people in Georgia have been hospitalized with swine flu — the most since September, according to the Georgia Department of Community Health.

Most were unvaccinated adults, and many had pre-existing conditions that made them more susceptible to swine flu, federal health officials said Monday.

Georgia has one of the lowest swine-flu vaccination rates in the country, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, a flu expert with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although she declined to elaborate.

Swine flu first was first identified last April and it hit the country in two waves — a smaller spring wave and then a larger fall wave. Flu activity has been declining since November, and health officials have had to push harder to get people interested in getting some of the tens of millions of unused doses.

“Many Americans are still vulnerable because they haven’t gotten vaccinated yet,” said U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, who joined Schuchat in a Monday teleconference with reporters.

About 86 million Americans have been vaccinated in a campaign that began in October.

If a third wave of illness occurs, it likely would be in pockets where few people were previously infected or received flu shots, said University of Michigan flu expert Dr. Arnold Monto.

Swine flu has sickened about 60 million Americans, hospitalized 265,000 and killed about 12,000.

The U.S. death toll from the new H1N1 virus, declared a global epidemic, is about one-third of the estimated deaths from a regular flu season.

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