Experts recommend getting flu shot early

September 10, 2009 2:32:47 PM PDT
Swine flu has been grabbing most of the attention lately, but health authorities are warning not to ignore the run-of-the-mill flu, which comes around every year at this time.This year's flu season is going to mean lining up for more than one flu shot, one for the regular flu and at least one other for the H1N1 swine flu.

Health officials are thus urging people to get the old standby flu shot out of the way now, so they're ready when the swine flu vaccine arrives next month.

Tanji Chumi got a flu shot for the first time this season.

"This year because of H1N1 and all the things going on with the flu, I decided it would be to my best advantage to get a flu shot this year," Chumi said.

The vaccine available now will not protect against the H1N1, or swine flu, virus. That vaccine won't be available until next month, but it will inoculate against the seasonal flu, and health officials are urging Americans to get this first shot out of the way.

"All of us should seek the vaccination against seasonal influenza early, that is to say today, now," said Dr. William Schaffner, of the National Foundation for Infection.

It's recommended most people get vaccinated, especially adults over 50, children from 6 months to 18 years old, pregnant women and anyone with a chronic health problem.

Many of the same groups should be vaccinated against H1N1 as well.

"We could in all likelihood have a very busy season, and it could last a long time," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, of the Centers for Disease Control.

Most of the cases of flu being reported now are H1N1. It is spreading particularly fast in schools and on college campuses.

"Thursday I woke up, and I had a sore throat, but I didn't really think anything of it, and then Friday I woke up, and I couldn't even move," UNC student Emily Kennard said.

With so much focus on H1N1, health experts are warning not to overlook the regular flu, which kills 36,000 people in a typical year.

The seasonal flu actually causes more deaths than the H1N1 virus.

The first batch of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine is not expected before mid-October.

Clinical trials are still underway and researchers have just started testing the vaccine on pregnant women.

Researchers reporting in the journal Science say an arrival date of mid-October may be too little, too late. They say even if the vaccine were available in time there may not be enough to vaccinate 70 percent of the U.S. population, which is what would be need to stop the spread.

Researchers from the University of Washington do stress that although the vaccine may not be helpful to cure a fall epidemic, it's still important for future protection.


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