Update : Influenza activity in the United States, 2003-04 season
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Update : Influenza activity in the United States, 2003-04 season

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    November 21, 2003, 20:10 EST (8:10 PM EST)


    Current surveillance data indicate that the United States is experiencing an early influenza season that could be more severe than in the past 3 years. The situation underscores the need for timely immunization of those people most at risk from serious complications of influenza and the people taking care of them, especially health-care workers.

    The United States and some European countries are experiencing influenza morbidity earlier than usual. So far, the majority of the influenza viruses identified in the United States this winter have been type A (H3N2) viruses, which historically have been associated with relatively severe influenza epidemics. Of the influenza A(H3N2) viruses from the United States that have been analyzed at CDC, 78% are similar to the A/Fujian/411/2002 strain, which evolved or “drifted” from the A/Panama/2007/99 strain present in the current vaccine, and the remaining 22% are similar to the vaccine strain. The A/Fujian/411/2002 drift variant was the predominant influenza strain circulating in Australia and New Zealand during their most recent influenza season, which was characterized as “moderately severe.” These factors could portend higher morbidity and mortality in the United States during the 2003-04 influenza season.

    The influenza vaccine is safe and is the most effective way to prevent the disease and its complications. Although this year’s vaccine contains the Panama strain of influenza A (H3N2), it is expected to provide some cross-protection against the Fujian-like viruses that are currently circulating. The other two virus strains (influenza A[H1N1] and influenza B) in the vaccine closely match their circulating counterparts.

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