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CDC: Recent Influenza Activity Relatively Low

Annual vaccinations still needed to prevent flu and complications

THURSDAY, Sept. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Influenza activity was relatively low worldwide over the summer of 2011, but vaccination remains an important criteria for keeping influenza under control and preventing potentially serious, even fatal, complications, according to two articles published in the Sept. 16 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Lenee Blanton, M.P.H., of the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues summarized reports of 115 pediatric deaths due to influenza between Sept. 1, 2010, and Aug. 31, 2011. They found that about half the deaths occurred in children with no known high-risk medical conditions. Of the 74 children aged 6 months or older for whom vaccination data was available, only 23 percent had been vaccinated. The authors indicated that their findings underscore the importance of annual vaccinations for children to prevent influenza and its related complications.

In a second article, Blanton and colleagues summarized influenza activity worldwide and in the United States from May 22 to Sept. 3, 2011. They found that the United States experienced relatively little influenza activity, with outpatient visits for influenza-like illnesses below baseline. In Europe and North America, low numbers of H1N1, H3N2, and influenza B viruses were reported. Influenza activity was low in South America, and H3N2 was the most predominant type identified in Asia, while H1N1 was more common in southern Africa.

"Year-round influenza surveillance provides critical information for planning interventions to prevent and control influenza, developing vaccine recommendations and antiviral treatment guidance, and presenting information to the public regarding the progress and severity of the influenza season," the authors write.

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