Flu Season is in the Air

The Centers for Disease Control says the influenza vaccine is arriving this week at doctors offices and clinics.

This year the concern isn't quantity, because they expect to have plenty of vaccines, but health experts are worried not enough people will get the shot.

Flu experts call vaccination rates " alarmingly low" and encourage Americans - especially those at high risk - to protect themselves.

Flu is on the way and so is the vaccine: Up to 132 million doses this year - more than ever.

But typically two-thirds of small children and people over age 50 and a third of seniors over 65 -- many of them caregivers don't get vaccinated.

T. Byron Thames of the American Association of Retired People, or AARP for short, says, "We want them not to infect the others that are around them and those they care for."

Even more surprising: 60 percent of health care workers don't get flu shots.

Bill Borwegen of Service Employees International Union explains,"There's a tremendous level of fear among our members, health care workers around the country, and it's unfortunate."

Even though the strain most prevalent in other parts of the world this year isn't in this vaccine flu experts insist it will work.

CDC Dr. Julie Gerberding says, "Even in a year when the vaccine is not a good match for a circulating strain of virus, we still see protection."

36,000 Americans die from flu every year.

AARP says most, but not all, of them are over the age of sixty-five.

One hundred children under age five, die every year, the CDC says.

The FDA just approved Flumist -- the nasal spray -- for children as young as two.

This year, experts urge Americans to get the vaccine even as late as February, a time when flu season typically peaks.

While the quantity of flu vaccines isn't a big concern some health officials are worried that people won't be prepared for the dangers of *pandemic* flu.

They say an outbreak could happen any time and it's never too soon to be ready.

Federal health officers say it *is* a time to at least educate yourself about pandemic flu.

Something completely different from the viruses we are exposed to that cause the annual flu.

Huntsville Physician Tim Howard explains it like this, "It's a very virulent strain, in other words, very difficult, very potent strain that could cause a lot of sickness and a lot of death."

There's no vaccine for a pandemic strain.

The last true pandemic flu hit in the late 1960s.

Most recently, Chinese health officers have confirmed an outbreak of bird flu found among ducks.

Bird flu, first hit Asia in 2003.

It's an example of the type of widespread illness that *could* happen if a flu strain transmissable by humans could develop, so far a rarity--but not an impossibility.