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New season for flu, with new vaccine

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

The novel Type-A H1N1 influenza virus could remain prevalent among this year's seasonal flu viruses, according to federal health officials.

It is likely, though not certain, that the 2009 H1N1 virus will continue to spread along with seasonal viruses in the United States, during the 2010-11 flu season, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention's web site.

The CDC recommends a yearly flu shot for everyone over the age of six months, as the first, and most-important, step in protecting against [the flu]. The 2010-11 flu vaccine will protect against three different flu viruses -- an H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus and last season's H1N1 virus.

Henry County Nurse Manager Jill Bolton expects to receive flu vaccines within the next few weeks at the Henry County Health Department. Bolton said her department ordered 2,200 doses of injectable vaccine, last February. She anticipates getting about 500 doses in flu mist form this fall as well.

The nurse manager said orders are based on flu vaccine supply and demand from the previous year, which has been moderate in recent years as the number of private providers has increased.

Some retail providers of the seasonal influenza vaccine have already begun offering the vaccine. Walgreens, for instance, announced last week that it would be offering seasonal flu immunizations daily at all of its locations nationwide. Other providers and local health departments are planning to carry the 2010-11 vaccine later this fall.

"I expect us to run out of vaccine before Christmas," said Bolton, noting an increased awareness among residents of the flu virus.

People have been more conscience of year-round flu illness lately, she added, partly because the 2009 H1N1 flu virus was active during the summer of 2009.

CDC officials encourage citizens to get vaccinated as soon as they are able, even though flu activity typically reaches its peak in the United States during the months of January and February, and can occur as late as May.

Everyday, preventive steps, such as staying away from sick people and washing one's hands to reduce the spread of germs, also help stave off the spread of the flu virus, according to the CDC, which advises sick people to stay home from work or school.

The CDC recommends vaccinations for those at high risk of serious flu complications. They include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease, and people 65 years and older.

Vaccinations also are important for health-care workers, and other people who live with, or care for, people who are at a higher risk of becoming infected. Children younger than six months are highly susceptible to serious flu illness, but are too young to be vaccinated. People who care for them should be vaccinated instead, according to the CDC.

The CDC reiterated that everyone should practice good, personal hygiene to ward off the spread of the influenza virus. But for those who are ill, flu antiviral drugs might be prescribed by their doctor to treat the illness.

To learn more about the 2010-11 seasonal flu, how to diagnose the symptoms of flu, and how to prevent infection, visit the CDC's web site at www.cdc.gov.