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September 29, 2012

Flu season gets an early start

It's early but vaccine is plentiful; everyone urged to get flu shots now

It’s a little early, but the flu season has started.

New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human Services yesterday announced the first positive test result for the illness at the state laboratory.

Beth Daly, chief of infectious disease surveillance, said while the first positive test is a little early, it’s not by much.

“It’s a little early, but not in a concerning way,” Daly said yesterday. “It’s not unexpected.”

But, she added, it should get people to the doctor or pharmacy or clinic to get a flu vaccination — now.

It takes about 14 days after the shot for antibodies to build up, so protection against influenze isn’t immediate, Daly said. A flu shot last year isn’t going to protect anyone this flu season, she said.

“Because influenza strains are different and because your response to vaccine wanes over seven to 12 months, we recommend people get it every year,” Daly said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention generally considers early October the official start of the flu season. In terms of what strains of flu are expected this winter, the CDC and the World Health Organization monitor what happens around the world.

“They are predicting there will be new strains circulating this year so they have adapted the vaccine,” Daly said. “It continues to have H1N1, but they have changed the other two components, based on expectations from what’s going on in other parts of the world.”

H1N1 is now considered a seasonal strain and not of specific concern, Daly said.

The advice this year is no different than in recent years, she said. Everyone over the age of 6 months should be vaccinated, she said.

“It’s the perfect time to get vaccinated,” Daly said. “We don’t expect the peak of activity until later in the winter — January or February.”

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