Posted Dec 1, 2010

State health officials are expecting a typical flu season this year with a mix of influenza strains including the once-dreaded H1N1.

The first laboratory case of influenza was confirmed by the Maine Center for Disease Control two weeks ago, when an adult from Sagadahoc County tested positive for influenza B.

Stephen Sears, state epidemiologist, said last year was unusual because the season started earlier, in the summer months, with a totally new strain — the H1N1 pandemic strain.

The stains circulating this season include H1N1 — which Sears said is no longer referred to as “swine flu” — as well as influenza B and influenza A, also known as H3N2.

“That one (H3N2) circulated last year, but we didn’t see it because the pandemic strain pretty much took over,” Sears said Wednesday.

“We never know exactly how severe a season will likely be. This year, we’ll have our usual influenza outbreaks with a couple of different strains circulating, including H1N1. … That’s going to be with us for years now because it’s in the population, but I think we will have less cases.”

Sears said that 75 million to 80 million people got H1N1 last year, and between 70 and 80 million were vaccinated, which decreased the risk pool.

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Copyright © 2010, Kennebec Journal, Augusta, Maine

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