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Get Your Vaccine for Seasonal Flu, Experts Urge
Date:9/10/2009

The regular winter scourge poses a potential threat, just like swine flu

THURSDAY, Sept 10 (HealthDay News) -- Swine flu may be grabbing all the headlines, but seasonal flu poses a real threat this fall, too.

And the time to act is now, by getting a seasonal flu shot. Then follow it up with an H1N1 swine flu vaccine when the first shipments arrive in mid-October.

That was the message Thursday from U.S. health officials, who noted that seasonal flu puts more than 200,000 Americans in the hospital each year and causes an estimated 36,000 deaths.

"This is a serious disease," Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said during a morning press conference. "When it comes to strains of the flu, getting vaccinated -- we know -- is the best line of defense."

About 116 million doses of seasonal flu vaccine will be on hand this year, Sebelius said. The vaccine is available now, and more doses will arrive in the coming weeks, she said.

People should also plan to get vaccinated for the H1N1 swine flu when that vaccine becomes available. As of now, it looks like the H1N1 vaccine will consist of two shots, given three weeks apart.

Sebelius said that, because the swine flu wasn't identified until April, there wasn't enough time to include the H1N1 vaccine in this year's seasonal flu shot.

Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the coming flu season will be different than any in recent memory, given the presence of both the seasonal and swine flu strains. At the moment, the H1N1 swine flu strain is far more prevalent in North America than the seasonal strain.

"We are in uncharted territory," Frieden said. "Flu season never really ended, or it started early, whichever way you look at it."

Uncharacteristically, flu infections continued during the summer, Frieden explained. And cases ar
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