2010 – 2011 Flu Season Off to a Slow Start

After last year’s H1N1 swine flu scare, the 2010 – 2011 season is off to a slow start, though the illness is currently on the rise.   Thus far, Georgia seems to be hardest hit with the state’s schoolchildren reporting the most cases of flu, according to Anne Schuchat, M.D., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.  More than 20 percent of the specimens tested in Georgia have turned up positive for flu – primarily the B strain – compared with 10.7 percent nationwide.  Once that number exceeds 12 percent, the flu season has officially arrived.

“If you’ve been thinking about getting vaccinated for influenza, now is a very good time to do so,” said Howard Koh, MD, assistant secretary for health for the Department of Health and Human Services.  The CDC is stressing the importance of getting immunized against flu before the traditional winter peak hits.  This season marks the start of a universal recommendation that all American over the age of six months be vaccinated.

According to Schuchat, it’s impossible to predict how bad the flu season will be.  Both she and Koh said that flu viruses are notoriously unpredictable, with last year’s epidemic that killed 12,000 people a prime example.  This year’s flu strains are primarily A/H3N2, B/H3N2 and 2009 H1N1 pandemic strains, though the first two seem to predominate.  Approximately one third of adults and children have had flu shots so far, a rate that is slightly ahead of last year at this time.  Schuchat encourages all Americans to get a flu shot because the season is fully under way.  Approximately 160 million doses of the vaccine have already been distributed.

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