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Experts say expect a long flu season

September 11, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Centers for Disease Control says 98 percent of flu cases circulating right now are H1N1 and they're mainly occurring in children and young adults. While we're not getting hit has hard as folks in the southeast, experts say brace yourself because it's going to be a long flu season.It's dominated the news all summer and even with the new school season scares about swine flu, some people just don't get it.

"Why is everyone worried? I don't get it," said L.A. resident Tom Gaukin.

"There's a reason for some people to worry," said infectious disease expert Dr. Jeffrey Galpin.

Dr. Galpin says the concern is very real for people with underlying health conditions, the young and pregnant women.

He says the immune systems of these groups would have difficulty handling the secondary infection of pneumonia, but for most healthy people they should be fine.

"It doesn't look like that outside the number of people getting sick that this is going to cause that many more deaths in the same population," said Dr. Galpin."It's just occurring earlier, we haven't seen it before and we haven't had exactly the amount of time that we usually get to make a vaccine to protect everybody."

But what about that new vaccine?

"It is highly unlikely, not impossible, but unlikely that it will be any more dangerous, or higher risk than any other year with any other average vaccine," said Dr. Galpin.

One of the most commonly asked questions about the vaccination is if it will prevent the onset of the H1N1.

"No, it will probably be 70 to 80 percent effective," said Dr. Galpin.

That's how effective the regular flu shot is. Experts say how a vaccine protects is different in everyone.

"We each have a different pattern of susceptibility. And we will be giving it at different times and there are other underlying diseases," said Dr. Galpin. "It won't be that good in the very old, but it's much, much better than not doing it."

New studies find the vaccine being tested against the virus is even more effective than researchers had thought. It appears to work in a single dose and it takes effect rapidly. Supplies of the swine flu vaccine are expected to be available in mid-October, but the seasonal flu vaccine is available now.

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