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Flu Season Begins; Plenty Of Vaccine Available

Health officials say the flu is starting to make its presence felt in San Diego County. But this year’s strain appears to lack the headline-grabbing punch of last year’s deadly H1N1 virus.

There's a mixture of different flu strains in circulation this flu season, a more typical mix of two influenza A strains and a B strain. H1N1 is still around, although at much lower levels than in 2009.

Dr. Mark Sawyer is a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at Rady Children's Hospital.

“This is really looking like a regular old flu season, and so far one that's relatively mild, although last week we did see an increase in number of cases, compared to previous weeks," Sawyer said.

Sawyer says early flu activity is usually a poor indicator of how severe the season will be.

Between April 2009 and August 2010, 596 Californians died from the H1N1 virus.

Sawyer says the flu contributes to the deaths of tens of thousands of elderly Americans annually.

“But we do see deaths in all ages group every year, including in children,” he said. “On an average year we might see something like 100 deaths in the United States from influenza, in children."

Federal health officials recommend everyone over 6 months of age get a flu shot. There is an ample supply of the vaccine at area doctor's offices, clinics, and pharmacies.

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