CDC Expects Flu Cases to Spike in Coming Weeks

Anticipating an increase in flu activity in the next few weeks, experts urge patients to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Although flu activity is currently low, it is expected to increase in the next few weeks, making this the ideal time to get vaccinated, according to CDC’s 2011-2012 “FluView” report.

“It takes about two weeks after vaccination for the body′s immune response to fully kick in,” said Joe Bresee, MD, Chief of CDC’s Influenza Epidemiology and Prevention Branch, in a statement. “It’s best to get vaccinated before activity begins so that you′ll be protected once flu season starts in your community.”

The CDC FluView Report, which is published each Friday from October through May, monitors influenza activity in the United States and measures disease burden by tracking influenza-related illness, hospitalizations, and deaths.

The initial report for the 2011-12 season found that “influenza activity in the United States is low now, with few people going to the doctor for flu-like symptoms and few respiratory viruses testing positive for flu,” said Bresee. “Though we can′t predict the exact timing, we expect increases in influenza illness, hospitalizations and deaths in the next few weeks.”

More than 110 million doses of vaccine had been delivered in the United States as of the end of September, with manufacturers projecting total production of between 166 and 173 million doses—the most flu vaccine ever produced for the US market.

“The good news is that the flu viruses this year’s vaccine will protect against are very well matched to those flu viruses that are circulating now, so it’s looking like we will have a vaccine that provides good protection this season to help keep influenza illness and serious complications down,” Breese noted.

With rare exceptions, CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccine. This season, more options than ever in this regard, both in terms of where they get vaccinated and which vaccine they chose to get.

In addtion to physician offices and health departments, flu vaccines are available at many pharmacies, work places, and other retail and clinic locations.

And along with the traditional seasonal flu shot that has been available for decades, a nasal spray vaccine was introduced in 2003 for non-pregnant healthy individuals aged 2 to 49, and a high-dose flu shot was introduced last season for individuals aged 65 and older. Also available this season is an intradermal shot which uses a needle 90% smaller than the regular flu shot and is approved for patients aged 18 to 64 years.