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Next flu season could look much like last season’s -- i.e. normal

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has unveiled its analysis of the just-ended flu season, plus its likely strategy for the upcoming flu season. In short: Expect the same plan as last year, folks.

The Food and Drug Administration has recommended that the upcoming vaccine against seasonal flu protect against the same three strains as last season’s formulation: H1N1 (a type of influenza A), H3N2 (another type of influenza A) and an influenza B, the CDC said in its annual flu season summary and look ahead.

The past season was milder than in some recent years—at least, compared with the year of the so-called swine flu. Here’s the CDC’s assessment:

“In comparison with the past three seasons, the 2010-11 influenza season was less severe than the pandemic year (2009-10) and the 2007-08 season, but more severe than the 2008-09 influenza season, as determined by the percentage of deaths resulting from pneumonia or influenza, the number of influenza-associated pediatric deaths reported, and the percentage of visits to outpatient clinics for ILI [influenza-like illness].”

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That doesn’t mean anyone can relax completely. The flu is still deadly—311 influenza-associated deaths were reported to the CDC between October and May. And influenza viruses are always changing, as illustrated by the H1N1 virus that caught the country offguard in 2009.  

So the CDC still recommends that everyone get the flu vaccine yearly, preferably in the fall before the start of the season.

The agency explains why in this seasonal flu Q&A:

“Another reason to get flu vaccine every year is that after you get vaccinated your immunity declines over time and may be too low to provide protection after a year.”

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healthkey@tribune.com

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