CDC Director Thomas Frieden called this start of the 2012-2013 flu season “the earliest regular flu season in nearly a decade,” adding, “This could be a bad flu year.”
The most recent CDC FluView surveillance shows high levels of influenza-like illness activity in five US states: Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Frieden added that he expects it is “just a matter of time” before activity increases in other states.
In the past, flu seasons have been more severe when the influenza A virus subtype H3N2 is in wide circulation. Melinda Wharton, acting director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, reported that so far this year there has been a predominance of this influenza strain.
“This year’s strains look to be a great match for the influenza vaccine,” Frieden adds. Based on early testing of flu specimens, the composition of the 2012-2013 seasonal influenza vaccine is a 98% match for the flu viruses that are circulating in the population. “The vaccine is still the best tool to protect against the flu,” he said.
CDC says that flu vaccination rates have been increasing over the past few years, especially among vulnerable populations such as pregnant women, children, and health care workers. Newly-released mid-season influenza immunization rates indicate that between 80% to 90% of pharmacists, physicians, and nurses have received the flu vaccine this year.
CDC officials advise that there is plenty of influenza vaccine still available for those who have not been vaccinated yet, and that it’s not too late to get the seasonal flu shot.
Click here for more information about CDC’s seasonal influenza surveillance.
[The above image provides a 3-D graphical representation of the biology and structure of a generic influenza virus, and is not specific to the 2009 H1N1 virus.
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