Flu Season

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Bad news for winter flu season, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control says the flu is breaking out early and strong this year.

CDC chief Julie Gerberding says influenza is sweeping across several states including Alabama. Flu season usually doesn't peak until December, January or February.

Making matters worse, this year's flu vaccine does not exactly match the strain of flu doctors of seeing in their patients. Gerberding says the strain is very close to the vaccine, so people should still be protected, but it's cause for worry.

About 36,000 Americans die of the flu each year, although recent years have been relatively mild. The vaccine is recommended for children under two, adults over 55, and people with long-term illnesses and those who work in hospitals.

Gerberding says the early outbreaks do not necessarily mean that this year's flu season will be a bad one. But federal health officials are pleading with people to get a vaccine now.

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Influenza Vaccine

  • Much of the illness and death caused by influenza can be prevented by annual influenza vaccination.
  • Influenza vaccine is specifically recommended for people who are at high risk for developing serious complications as a result of influenza infection.
  • These high-risk groups are:
    • All people age 65 and older.
    • People of any age with chronic diseases of the heart, lungs or kidneys, diabetes, immunosuppression, or severe forms of anemia.
    • Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities housing patients of any age.
    • Women who will be more then three months pregnant during influenza season.
    • Children and teenagers who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy and who may therefore be at risk for developing Reye syndrome after an influenza virus infection.

  • Overall vaccine effectiveness varies from year to year, depending upon the degree of similarity between the influenza virus strains included in the vaccine and the strain or strains that circulate during the influenza season.

  • Influenza vaccine produced in the United States cannot cause influenza.

  • The only type of influenza vaccine that has been licensed in the United States is made from killed influenza viruses, which cannot cause infection.

When to receive the influenza vaccine

  • In the United States, influenza usually occurs from about November until April, with activity peaking between late December and early March.

  • The optimal time for vaccination of persons at high risk for influenza-related medical complications is during October through November.

  • It takes about 1 to 2 weeks after vaccination for antibody against influenza to develop and provide protection.

Source: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/flu/fluvac.htm ( The Center for Disease Control Vaccine Information Web site)