The Last Flu Story, We Hope

Jan 23, 2004 -- This may be the last flu story we carry for a while. For the first time since the reporting week ending November 8, the national percentage for influenza-like illness declined below the national baseline of 2.5%. And the number of states reporting widespread influenza activity continued to drop during the reporting week of January 11-17. Hopefully, this means that this year's flu season is coming to an end.

Of the flu viruses collected and characterized since October 2003, most were influenza A (H3N2). Of these, 18.8% were similar antigenically to the vaccine strain A/Panama but a whopping 81.2% were similar to a antigenic drift variant, A/Fujian. This drift variant was not included in this year's flu vaccine.

There will be a great deal of attention paid to what flu strains are included in next year's flu vaccine. And how much of it will be produced. We doubt anyone wants to see another flu vaccine shortage, as occurred this past season.

Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors, MedicineNet.com

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