Experts predicting a fairly mild flu season

The chances of getting H1N1 this year are very low.

The chances of getting H1N1 this year are very low.

And, rejoice, it looks like it’s going to be a fairly light year for the seasonal flu, too.

“This is very good news,” says Dr. Marc Ouellette, scientific director of the Institute of Infection and Immunity and a professor at Laval University in Quebec City. “It is nothing compared to last year. It’s a rest for us.”

Surveillance data from countries that have already had their flu season tells scientists that the strains circulating this year are common seasonal strains. Only one case of H1N1 has been reported so far this flu season, the tail end of last year’s pandemic, says Dr. Ouellette.

However, he warns that we should never get complacent. “Influenza every year can be deadly. It’s serious.” Regular seasonal flu can kill, he says, but usually at the extremes of the population – among the very young and the very old, as well as those with depressed immune systems. Public health officials are keeping an eye on a fatal outbreak of flu on a reserve in northern Manitoba.

The best defense is getting the flu shot, says Dr. Ouellette, who receives the vaccine himself every year. It’s not too late for this year, though it does take two weeks to a month to give your body full protection.

“There is scientific proof that the vaccines are safe and protect you against getting the disease yourself, and also infecting other people,” he says. Last year, results of a study showed that vaccinating young school children decreased the rate of infection from flu for the whole community, including parents and grandparents.

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