Influenza continues to spread across the Garden State, but things could be worse.

New Jersey State Epidemiologist Dr. Tina Tan says high levels of flu are being reported but “so far, we’re not we’re not seeing the same intensity of activity like last year."

Data from hospital emergency departments, schools, nursing homes and long-term care facilities is tabulated and compared with previous years.

“On the other hand, it is still early to tell, so we just have got to continue to monitor activity for the next several weeks," she said.

For the past several weeks, the predominant strain circulating in New Jersey is the H1N1 influenza virus. But Tan said we’re starting to see AH3 emerge as well.

As to whether this year’s vaccine is a good match for the strains of flu that are around, Dr. Tan said the CDC is expected to officially announce what it’s found on vaccine effectiveness next month.

“According to some preliminary information that we’re hearing from CDC, the circulating viruses right now seem be a decent match for what’s in the vaccine.”

She stressed it is still a good idea to get a flu shot if you have not already done so.

“We are particularly encouraging individuals to get the vaccine if they’re kids or if they’re in higher risk groups like individuals with chronic disease, which would include lung or cardiac disease, pregnant women, and the elderly.”

She pointed out people who get vaccinated “tend to do better, they tend to be protected against getting a more serious illness. It tends to protect against complications of flu including death.”

Tan said if you do come down with the flu you may be able to shorten it’s duration and severity.

“Medications like Tamiflu are available that could help reduce the length and severity of illness if you get the medication early enough. But you need to speak with your healthcare provider.”

She added you should not have any problem getting a flu shot this winter.

“There’s about 163 million to 168 million doses of flu vaccine available this season. This apparently is the most seasonable flu vaccine that has ever been distributed.”

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