Trend may spur change in flu shot distribution

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by JANET ST. JAMES / WFAA

wfaa.com

Posted on March 10, 2010 at 11:25 AM

DALLAS - Flu activity is now classified as sporadic across Texas. While levels in North Texas are called "low," health authorities warn we are not out of the woods, yet.

With spring break approaching next week, the risk of a flu resurgence rises.

Dallas County still has more than 10,000 swine flu doses available, but they will throw them out if no one uses them.

Since the H1N1 flu first hit last April, WFAA tracked the virus closely and noticed a trend that has health authorities now calling for an important change in flu shots.

While thousands of North Texans fell ill with the swine flu, very few cases of seasonal influenza have been reported in Texas and across the country.

"Now, we're not out of the flu season we could see something as late as April," said Dr. John Carlo, Dallas County Health Department. "But, we're certainly encouraged so far that we haven't seen regular seasonal flu viruses circulate."

Dallas County health authorities said scientists everywhere are trying to figure out why. Could the H1N1 virus have interfered with traditional strains or could it be that in preparation for huge swine flu shot demand, more people got season flu shots?

The seasonal vaccine was distributed weeks ahead of schedule, before school started. Epidemics typically start and spread with children first. The theory has health professionals calling for the flu vaccine to be made and delivered to doctors in advance of back-to-school checkups.

"If we can get that vaccine in August, we know we'll be able to give it out more efficiently because people will want it and get it," Carlo said. "So, we think we can be more effective with an earlier vaccine."

The next seasonal influenza vaccine will contain the H1N1 strain, so people will only need one shot. If given early enough, health authorities hope to prevent a serious outbreak entirely next year.

E-mail: jstjames

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