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Outbreaks Signal Another Flu Season, CDC Says
Date:12/4/2010

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Dec. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Although winter hasn't even arrived, the first signs of flu season have, U.S. health officials said Friday.

In fact, Georgia is seeing a sharp increase in influenza cases, mostly among school-aged children, with the state calling it a regional outbreak. The Georgia cases may be an early sign of what's in store for the rest of the country once flu season really gets under way in the winter, officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

But there's good news, too: the flu strains circulating so far seem to be a close match for this season's vaccine, experts said, and next week has been designated by the CDC as National Influenza Vaccination Week.

"Flu is coming," Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during an afternoon press conference. "This fall has begun like so many influenza seasons, with relatively few flu viruses circulating through the end of November."

However, last season's H1N1 flu pandemic was very different from what is usually seen, she noted, and people shouldn't be complacent because flu hasn't roared back yet.

Schuchat noted that this year's flu vaccine is designed to fight the H1N1 pandemic strain, as well as strains H3N2 and influenza B.

In Georgia, influenza B is the strain that is being seen most right now, Schuchat said. "The majority of B viruses from Georgia are related to the B virus that is in our vaccine, so we expect the vaccine to be a good match against this B strain that is already causing quite a bit of disease," she said.

The vaccine is also a good match for the other flu strains seen so far, including H1N1, H2N2 and the influenza B virus, officials said.

Schuchat believes that all Americans, except children under 6 months of age, should get a flu shot. "I strongly encourage people to get
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