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Authorities see milder flu season compared to last year

CBS Austin

There is both good news and a lot of uncertainty about this year's flu vaccine this early in our flu season. The good news is that the CDC thinks it is genetically similar to the strains starting to circulate. That means is could be a lot more effective at preventing the flu than last year's vaccine, but with American set to travel for the holidays in a couple of weeks -- doctors encourage you to get your shot now.

“We don't have a lot of early indications right now because it is so early in the flu season,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, the director of the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development in Houston .

Last year, the flu vaccine was just 25 percent effective at preventing the flu. It was a bad season, but Dr Hotez says the vaccine kept it from being worse. “The piece that often got missed in that discussion was that it prevented you from being hospitalized or even dying it prevented flu deaths.”

Last season was so bad, a record 8100 children went to the emergency room at Dell Children's with flu symptoms in January alone. And at St David's, the chief medical officer said it started last December and one month later, St David's was swamped too.

As bad as it was -- this year is shaping up to be a milder flu season. The latest flu surveillance report released by the CDC Friday shows flu activity in all 50 states -- but not at the level it was a year ago. The virus -- an H1N1 -- is milder than the strain that hit so hard. In Australia, which often predicts what the US flu season will be like -- the vaccine was as much as 68 percent effective against the flu.

It's good news ahead of the holiday travel season, said Dr. Hotez, “ Especially if you're on an airplane where the air circulation is not great and the flu virus is on surfaces.” But Doctor HGotez says it only works if you get the vaccine. “ You want to definitely go get yourself vaccinated and please get your children vaccinated.”

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