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U.S. Flu Season Off to Slow Start
Date:2/3/2009

ate to get your influenza vaccination," she said.

Despite the good news so far, health officials said they were concerned about the increase in bacterial infections associated with flu, including bacterial pneumonia and MRSA.

"Bacterial infections kill many of the people who die from influenza complications," Dr. Andrew Pavia, a member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) Task Force on Pandemic Influenza, said during the teleconference.

MRSA has also emerged as an infection responsible for deaths among healthy people after influenza, not just those who have been hospitalized, Pavia said. "To date, our planning has not really gotten us ready to deal with that threat," he said.

Pavia said that, last year, the father of actress Cameron Diaz came down with the flu, then a few days later developed pneumonia with MRSA and died. "This is the kind of threat that we need to able to prepare for in a pandemic," he said.

During the 2006-07 flu season, of 74 children in the United States who died from flu, 22 also had staph infections, about 73 percent of which were MRSA, according the CDC.

The CDC says that every year an estimated 5 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from complications, and about 36,000 people die from the disease.

Meanwhile, experts are still worried about the possibility of a bird (avian) flu pandemic.

"Since 2004, we have been dealing with a large public health issue, which is the spread of avian influenza," Dr. Keiji Fukuda, head of the World Health Organization's global influenza program, said during the teleconference. "In the past three months, we have continued to see a great deal of activity. Since then, we have had about 16 people get infected," he said.

Fukuda said that, even though there has been progress in controlling the virus in birds, it remains widespread and persistent. "In
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