New flu shot available as season approaches

LOS ANGELES Public health officials are broadening their recommendations for exactly who should get the flu shot this year. They're getting reports of flu cases early in the season and they're worried we're all getting a bit complacent and not taking the virus seriously.

Last year, public health officials called the flu outbreak "beyond containment." In California, there were crowded emergency rooms and a virus that infected 9,000 and killed 600.

This year, doctors don't want to see the same thing happen. Emergency room physicians say they're already seeing flu cases trickling in.

"We're tracking it already and we're seeing a rise already. So it's very wise for people to get prepared, and get their vaccinations early as possible so that we have an entire community that is vaccinated before we get hit hard as we enter into December and January," said Dr. Anthony Cardillo, an ER doctor at Glendale Adventist Medical Center.

This year's flu vaccine contains three strains, including the one that scared a lot of people last year: the H1N1 strain.

"It will contain H1N1. It'll contain another flu: AH3N2 and it'll contain a flu B virus that has been circulating worldwide. So we believe that with those three elements in the vaccination that it should be pretty effective for what we expect will be circulating around the country," said Dr. Gil Chavez, Calif. Dept. of Public Health.

Cardillo says worries about the economy can wear down resistance to infection. The flu can hit those who are stressed especially hard.

For many, getting a flu shot is low on their priority list.

"I think people do get a little complacent when it comes to their vaccines, especially on the adult level," said Cardillo. "We always think of vaccines for children. But it's very important for adults to get their vaccines."

While we experienced a vaccine shortage last year, the /*California Department of Public Health*/ says it's received 700,000 doses to distribute to local counties and clinics.

The federal /*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention*/ recommends everyone except babies younger than 6 months get a flu shot.

Other ways to stem the spread of flu: Sneeze into your arm; and stay home when you're sick.

"Make sure you're washing your hands a lot and also good hygiene would also help," said Cardillo.

There is one area where the public is helping. Researchers observed hand-washing in restrooms and report 85 percent of adults are washing their hands after using the facilities. It's the highest figure since 1996.

Washing your hands and getting the flu shot are two essentials ways we can all protect ourselves against the flu.

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