Flu Season Mild So Far, Says CDC

Flu Vaccine Matches Well With Circulating Viral Strains

By Kathleen Doheny
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Dec. 8, 2011 -- The U.S. flu season is mild so far, according to the CDC. That is typical for this early in the season.

Influenza activity was low in October and November, according to the latest CDC statistics. They are published in the Dec. 9 issue of the agency's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

From Oct. 2 to Nov. 26, flu viruses had been reported in 30 states. Of 24,027 specimens tested, just 266 or 1.1% were positive as flu viruses. Nearly half of those came from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

For the week ending Nov. 26, 21 states reported no flu activity. None of the other states or the District of Columbia had widespread flu. No pediatric flu deaths have been reported this season, either. For adults, the percentage of deaths reported this season from flu or pneumonia has ranged from 5.9% to 6.4% per week. That is below what experts call the epidemic threshold.

Prevention Is Key

More than 129 million doses of flu vaccine have been distributed so far this season. It is not too late to be vaccinated. At this point, the flu vaccine matches up well with the circulating strains of the virus, according to the report.

Vaccination is the best way to prevent the flu, the CDC says. It is recommended for everyone six months and older. Some people should not be vaccinated, such as those with a severe egg allergy.

If flu occurs, the CDC says antiviral medications can help. These medicines work best if started within 48 hours after the illness begins. The CDC recommends Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir).


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SOURCE: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), Dec. 9, 2011.

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