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Vincent Iannelli, M.D.

This Year's Flu Season Surprise - Flu Season Starts Early

By December 4, 2012

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Every year, flu season seems to bring us a surprise. From shortages of flu shots (2004) and pandemic flu (2010) to last year's very mild flu season, there always seems to be something new and unexpected about flu season.

What's the surprise this year? It isn't a new strain of flu, as the vast majority of flu viruses being tested are well matched to this year's flu vaccine. And it isn't a shortage of flu shots -  over 124 million doses of flu vaccine have already been distributed this year and another 10 million have been produced, which are more than enough to get everyone who wants a flu vaccine immunized.

What is surprising, is that this year's flu season is getting off to such an early start. The CDC reports that there have been "significant increases in flu activity" in recent weeks, with:

  • widespread flu activity in four states
  • regional flu activity in seven states
  • two pediatric flu deaths
  • only one state without any flu activity

What does an early flu season mean? Well, the last time we had early flu activity like this was during the 2003-04 flu season, which was "severe, especially for children." One-hundred and fifty two children died during the 2003-04 flu season.

According to Dr. Melinda Wharton, Acting Director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, "Increasing flu activity should be a wake-up call. For anyone who has put off vaccination: It's time to get your flu vaccine now."

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