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CDC: Plenty Of Improved Flu Vaccine This Season

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 Flu season is getting underway, and federal health officials say this year’s vaccine should be better than last year’s in battling existing flu strains.

Last year’s flu season was particularly severe because the predominant strain was an influenza A called H3N2, which was not included in the vaccine.

Dr. John Lanza, Director of the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County, says the correction was made for this season.

“The H3 component of the vaccine was not quite the right one for the strain that was circulating last year,” said Lanza. “So this year they adjusted that. They’re using the H3 component that is the one that was provided for the majority of the cases from last year.”

The strains targeted this year are H3N2, H1N1 – the so-called “Bird Flu” – and the prevalent B-strain.

And who should get a flu shot? Everyone over the age of six months, says Lanza.

“There should be plenty – 120+ million doses available in the United States – so everyone should have access to a flu shot if they want it.”

The delivery methods remain the same. Ages 8-49 can get the nasal spray vaccine, while everyone else should get the injection. And as far as the severity of influenza this season, it’s too early to tell just yet.

Symptoms can include a cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, fatigue, and fever. Diarrhea and vomiting are also possible. Those at risk of flu-related complications include young children; people over 65; pregnant women; and those with chronic health problems.

“And anyone that has an underlying health problem – such as asthma, diabetes, heart or lung disease – or an immune-compromising disease such as HIV -- definitely needs to get vaccinated,” said Lanza.

Despite its contagiousness, Lanza says flu for the most part is not a reportable disease. As far as making flu reportable, the paperwork makes that prohibitive. Each case of a reportable illness requires the epidemiology staff to complete a ten-page questionnaire.

Other protections against the flu include basic hygiene. That begins with hand-washing -- and lots of it. Also sneeze or cough into a tissue or your sleeve; try to avoid close contact with those who are sick, and if you get sick, stay home.

Information on flu shot availability can be found at www.Escambia.floridahealth.gov and at www.cdc.gov.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.