Flu Shots Advised on Brink of New Season

from Associated Press

This year's influenza season is unfolding as health officials predicted, and those who get their flu shot this fall will be armed with the right protection, the government says.

There are three main types of flu virus, all of which change from year to year, forcing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend a new vaccine mix every year.

In March, the CDC recommended that the flu shot for the 1995-96 season in the United States protect against type A-Texas, A-Johannesburg and B-Beijing flu strains.

The CDC reported recently that its prediction has held up. From October through August, most of the flu strains circulating around the world were type A, accounting for 64% of the flu cases, the CDC said.

Last flu season, type A-Shangdong dominated the type A strains, but A-Johannesburg was growing, the CDC said. The A-Texas strain was also detected, while the majority of the type-B strains were B-Beijing.

No one strain is expected to dominate the coming flu season. The CDC said it does not know how severe this season might be.

The CDC recommends that people get flu shots beginning in mid-October. The flu season in the United States generally begins in November. Outbreaks usually don't occur until December or January.

Flu contributes to the deaths of about 20,000 people in the United States each year. Ten percent to 20% of the U.S. population gets the flu annually.

In addition to the elderly, people with chronic heart problems, lung problems and immune deficiencies are most at risk.

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