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FDA Approves Flu Vaccine

It seems like only yesterday that we were reporting on the pandemic that came to be known as H1N1, the flu virus that some proclaimed would ultimately becone the mother of all pandemics   But alas, it has been awhile, and now, 'tis the season for the FDA to approve flu vaccines for the upcoming influenza rush.

This time, barring a new strain appearing on the horizon, adults will only need one shot, according to a news release provided by the FDA.  Last year, the swine flu popped up too late to be included in the seasonal flu vaccine, hence the need for two shots.

For the 2010-11 flu season, the Centers for Disease Control expanded the scope of their vaccine recommendations to include everyone over 6 months old.  The agency made the expansion based on counsel from the Advisory Committee on Immunizations.

The CDC reports that between 5% and 20% of the US population gets the flu every year, resulting in 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths.  By expanding their recommendations, the agency hopes to mitigate complications of the virus.

This year, the vaccine will include killed or weakened forms of three flu viruses; two variations of the Type A virus, and one from Type B.  Type A viruses are more problematic; they can efficiently mutate into new viruses once people become immune to the original.

In the aforementioned news release, the FDA states that scientists try to match vaccine formulations based on the viruses they expect to be circulating. However, even if the match is less than perfect, flu vaccines can lessen the severity of the illness.

In addition to taking the time to get immunized, the CDC also recommends taking preventive steps to help reduce the spread of the flu:

*Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
*Wash hands regularly with soap and water; if unavailable, use an alcohol based hand rub
*Avoid close contact with sick people
*Try not to touch your nose and eyes, as this is how germs spread
*If you do have the flu, avoid contact with others until your fever has been gone for 24 hours.

The agency also recommends taking an anti-viral, which if taken as soon as you fall ill, will lessen the severity of the illness.