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Despite all the headlines about swine flu, which has become the main influenza strain circulating in the world, doctors do expect some garden-variety flu to hit this fall too -- the kind that every year kills 36,000 Americans and hospitalizes 200,000.
"Take some individual responsibility to stay healthy during the flu season," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who scheduled her own seasonal shot for Friday.
Waiting to get the first inoculation out of the way "is not in anybody's best interest," added Dr. Nancy Nielsen, past president of the American Medical Association. She said busy doctors need to have completed regular vaccinations by the time they have to deal with H1N1 shots.
There's no way to predict how much of either flu strain will circulate.
"This year, we are in uncharted territory," warned Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
He said some parts of the Southeast in the past few weeks have experienced as much flu as is usually seen in the middle of winter. So far, it's all the H1N1 variety, with schools and colleges experiencing outbreaks almost as soon as classes began.
Indeed, a typical school student who catches swine flu will spread it to two to three classmates, says a stark new estimate published Thursday in the journal Science. Flu specialist Ira Longini of the University of Washington in Seattle based the estimate on how swine flu spread through a New York City school in April, and some other schools since.
A separate report in Thursday's New England Journal suggested European manufacturers might get away with an even smaller dose. Novartis Vaccines added what's called an adjuvant, or immune-boosting chemical, to its version of the swine flu shot and found a 7.5-microgram dose was effective. It did, however, spark more of those reactions like injection-site pain.
Numerous countries allow flu vaccines with adjuvants to sell every year, but the U.S. has never approved an adjuvant-containing flu shot.
On the Net:
Flu information: http://www.flu.gov/
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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