Updated: 2009-05-21 16:15

WASHINGTON – U.S. health officials said on Wednesday they are considering starting the vaccination campaign for seasonal flu earlier this year to make room for a possible second round of shots against the new H1N1 flu.

The United States also reported its eighth death from the new swine flu virus, in a patient in Arizona.

“If possible we do want to have an earlier rollout of seasonal vaccine,” Dr Daniel Jernigan of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told reporters in a telephone briefing.

He said the CDC would work with manufacturers of influenza vaccines and a committee of doctors that advises on vaccination policy to see if that would be possible and desirable. Flu vaccination usually starts in September in the United States and peaks in November.

Vaccine experts agree it would be better to launch a second round of vaccinations against the new H1N1 strain instead of trying to add it to the seasonal flu vaccine or replacing one of its three components with the new H1N1 virus.

“The production of seasonal flu vaccine is nearly complete,” Jernigan said.

On Wednesday, the CDC reported 5,710 confirmed and probable cases of the new H1N1 strain in 48 states, with eight deaths. Globally, more than 10,000 cases have been confirmed with 80 deaths, most in Mexico.

Jernigan said it is clearly still affecting younger people more in the United States — 40 percent of the 247 people who have been hospitalized with serious illness from the new H1N1 strain are aged 19 to 49, he said.

Seasonal influenza puts 200,000 Americans in the hospital every year and is a factor in 36,000 deaths, but 90 percent are over 65 or have chronic diseases such as asthma and heart disease that make them more vulnerable. With the new H1N1 flu, Jernigan said, 70 percent of hospitalized patients have an underlying condition.