THURSDAY, Jan. 13 (HealthDay News) -- This winter will not be a
repeat of last year's H1N1 pandemic and instead is turning out to
be a more typical flu season, experts say.
And that means it is not too late to get a flu shot, advice that
seniors in particular should heed since the prevalent strain this
time around tends to hit their age group the hardest, the experts
added. The H1N1 flu virus tended to strike the young.
Over the past several weeks, flu has started to spread
throughout the South and to parts of the Northeast, particularly
New York City. Fortunately, this year's vaccine is well-matched to
the circulating strains of the virus, according to the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention.
"It is the flu season, and we should expect activity to pick up in certain areas," said CDC spokesman Tom Skinner. "We expect activity to pick up through January and February."
Other hot spots around the country include Alabama, Georgia,
Louisiana, Mississippi, Illinois and Oklahoma, according to the
Among the types of flu circulating there is a little H1N1, but
the H3N2 A strain is the most prevalent so far, Skinner said.
"It's not too late to get your flu shot. The manufacturers have produced over 160 million doses of vaccine, so there's plenty of vaccine out there," he noted.
"We do have the H3N2 circulating, and that tends to affect the elderly more," Skinner explained. But the other strains hit old and young, and "the bottom line is the flu can affect anybody," he said.
"For the first time, we are recommending that everybody over the age of 6 months get vaccinated," he added.
Flu expert Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine
at New York University in New York City, said "people may be
confused because last year it was a very early flu season, which is
typical of a pandemic."
This year's flu strains are those that most people do have some
immunity to, he said. "They don't tend to peak until midwinter --
the end of January and February."
With H3N2 the predominant strain, Siegel expects to see more
elderly patients than last year -- and more deaths. H3N2 tends to
cause more pneumonia and other complications than other forms of
flu, he added.
"Last year, there were 10,000 deaths compared to the normal 34,000," he said. "The age distribution of deaths this year will be back to the elderly."
In Europe, the H1N1 strain is the predominant strain, Siegel
"So much of the U.S. population was vaccinated against H1N1 last year and so much immunity developed as the thing spread like wildfire, that's the reason the predominate strain is H3N2 -- it's all about immunity," he said.
Siegel thinks everyone should get vaccinated and it's not too
late to do so.
"There is plenty of time to take it," he stressed. "Now is the time to take it, because it becomes effective in about two or three weeks, and you will have stronger immunity than if you took it back in August."
For more information on flu, visit the
U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention.
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