Handful of U.S. flu cases confirmed

Oct. 14, 2011 at 7:58 PM
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ATLANTA, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- The first federal report of the new influenza season released Friday says flu activity is currently low in the United States, but a few cases have cropped up.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said in its initial FluView report for the 2011/2012 flu season a few cases of influenza have been confirmed in Alaska, the West Coast, the South and the Midwest.

The Minnesota Department of Health announced the state's first lab-confirmed flu infection -- a strain that was tested and targeted by this year's vaccine, a health department official told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Kristen Ehresmann, who directs the Minnesota's immunization programs, said the early discovery doesn't indicate that this year's influenza season will be unusually severe or early, but it does start the clock on the illness and widespread transmission of the virus can be expected in eight to 10 weeks.

Last year, the virus was detected in November, became widespread in late January and tapered off in March, Ehresmann said.

"Though we can′t predict the exact timing, we expect increases in influenza illness, hospitalizations and deaths in the next few weeks," Dr. Joe Bresee of the CDC said in a statement.

"The good news, is that the flu viruses this year′s vaccine will protect against are very well matched to those flu viruses that are circulating now."

The CDC routinely monitors influenza activity in the United States year-round and receives reports from international, state and local participants. Within 48 hours of receiving those reports, it compiles and analyzes that data to produce a report that provides comprehensive situational awareness regarding influenza activity in the United States.

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