MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota flu season this year will probably be tougher than last year, according to the experts.
"We usually do not have mild years back to back," said Dr. Kristin Nichol, an influenza researcher at the Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center.
"I can't explain why it is biologically, but I would certainly encourage people not to expect another mild season," she said.
That's also the view taken by Kris Ehresmann, an epidemiologist who tracks the influenza virus for the Minnesota Department of Health.
"We are expecting more disease activity this year than what we had last year," she said, adding that the flu strains expected to predominate are the type that make people the sickest.
Others, however, are more optimistic. Dr. Gregory Poland, an influenza expert with the Mayo Clinic, said he has seen nothing so far to indicate that the flu season will be severe or even take its normal toll.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called the 2000-2001 flu season the mildest in five years, and said that flu cases never really reached epidemic proportions.
In Minnesota, the number of cases confirmed by laboratory testing (considered just a fraction of how many people got sick) was 338 compared with 640 for the previous year, according to state health officials.
There will be enough vaccine available this year for those who need or want it, Ehresmann said, adding that delays in vaccine shipments should not be as prolonged as last year. More vaccine than last year also will be available, she said.
The state, however, is asking those in good health to wait until Oct. 29 or later to get a flu shot to ensure enough is available early in the season for those who need it most.
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