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DHSS Flu Bulletin Shows H1N1 Dominated 2013-2014 Flu Season

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Department of Health and Social Services
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The Alaska Section of Epidemiology collects surveys during flu season between the months of October and May. On Tuesday, the state released a bulletin with the results from those surveys from the 2013-14 flu season. 

The bulletin came out at the height of vaccination season.  With students heading back to school and in need of vaccinations and flu vaccines available across the state, Alaska released its bulletin to show how unpredictable the flu can be.

Staff physician at the Section of Epidemiology for the Department of Health and Social Services Rosalyn Singleton says a similar bulletin is released every year. 

“This report shows what we saw in Alaska with the surveillance that we have available which is voluntary reporting to hospitals and clinics of samples to the state. And then a small network of symptom reporting by physicians. That’s mainly what we have in the state as well as providers reporting on flu.”

Singleton says the biggest area of interest with the 2013-14 flu season concerns the H1N1 virus.  There was a huge scare in 2009 when a pandemic was raging and the virus has continued to circulate.  However, this past year saw the first time since the 2009 pandemic that the H1N1 virus dominated over other viruses. 

Alaska’s peak of flu season is usually during the month of December.  2013-14 proved that to be true however there were a couple surprising outcomes from the data.  There was another spike in May and June, a time when the flu is usually fizzling out.  Because of this irregularity, Singleton says it’s important to not neglect flu vaccines.

“We’ve had flu seasons that have started between October and some that have started in February. So there’s a wide variation in when flu can start and peak in the state and we can’t predict that. And for that reason, we recommend that people receive the vaccine when the flu is available.”

The state of Alaska has released 13 vaccine products for the flu and some people qualify for free vaccines.  Visit the website of the Department of Health and Social Services for more information at www.dhss.alaska.gov.