CDC Strongly Urging More to Accept Flu Vaccines

Dr. Anne Schuchat today said CDC recommends about 83 percent of the U.S. population get the seasonal flu vaccine, but only 40 percent did last year. Health care workers should get it and also the H1N1 vaccine when it's ready.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, today said CDC recommends about 83 percent of the U.S. population should get the 2009-10 seasonal flu vaccine, but only 40 percent were vaccinated last year. Health care workers should get it and also get the H1N1 vaccine when it's ready, Schuchat stressed in a briefing for reporters.

"I want to make a special reminder to health care workers," Schuchat said. "This year in particular, we want to keep health care workers healthy" so they can help people who do become sick, she said. It's "very likely" health care workers will be included among the groups for which the government will recommend the H1N1 flu vaccine when it is available this fall.

"We in the United States have to get ready for the fall. We do expect seasonal influenza viruses to circulate as well, and we need to be prepared for both of them," she said. Twenty U.S. states are reporting widespread flu activity now, which is very unusual for this time of year, she said, adding that, so far, the H1N1 virus strain circulating around the world has not mutated. Five cases of H1N1 infection resistant to Tamiflu have been reported to date, she said.

"I actually think that this is a virus that's capable of causing a spectrum of illness. That includes severe illness and death. I think it's very important to take this virus seriously," she noted. She said H1N1 had a 6-8 percent attack rate in affected communities during spring 2009, but that infection rate can be expected to double or triple this fall during the true U.S. flu season. Seasonal flu kills an average of 36,000 people annually in the United States and causes about 200,000 annual hospitalizations. Virtually all seasonal flu viruses resist Tamiflu, she said.

Schuchat said CDC is updating flu guidance it issued to schools last fall and should have the new version available in a few weeks.

Vaccination is only part of the response to flu recommended by CDC and public health experts, she noted, along with social distancing, isolation, antiviral medications, and other tools.

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