Flu season starts strong, abruptly

El Paso pediatrician urges vaccination despite experience

EL PASO, Texas - The 2012 flu season is predicted to be more severe than in years past, with higher rates of infection and stronger symptoms.

The director of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention even called this season's strain "nasty" and urged everyone to get vaccinated.

The assertion that this season's influenza strain is severe is because it's the same strain that caused numerous infections with serious symptoms in 2003-2004.

Officials with the CDC have stated that the vaccine should be effective this year because one of the strains in the vaccine matches well against that infectious strain, which has been popping up all over the U.S.

Texas is one of more than a handful of states that is seeing a spike in the number of infections. The Texas Department of Health Services doesn't require doctors to report influenza cases to the state, so there isn't an accurate number of infections. But as of the beginning of the month, about 300 cases were reported in Texas.

El Paso pediatrician Lourdes Asiain said the practice she shares with two other pediatric doctors has seen an influx of flu infections this month, with a concentration of Influenza B infections.

"I do believe it would probably be much worse if we didn't have the vaccine," Asiain said. "For Influenza B, maybe it's not the perfect match, but I still think getting the vaccine is important."

While Asiain will never discourage people from getting the vaccine, she isn't as confident in its effectiveness this season. She admits, her personal experience is playing into her opinion. The pediatrician was diagnosed with influenza last week.

"I've gotten the vaccine since I can remember. Since I was in residency. My kids get it, my husband gets it," said Asiain. "I had never had influenza after having the vaccine, but there's always a first time. I think I didn't get as sick, though."

Dr. Asiain thinks the flu shot will help keep some people from getting infected, but it isn't a guarantee.

"Nothing is 100 percent. Nothing is going to prevent everything 100 percent, but it's usually much less likely or a less severe case," she added.

Flu season lasts until March.

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