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NEWORLEANS - Leaders from around the country gathered in New Orleans to try to improve the way government responds to disasters and emergencies.

One of the most recent causes for alarm, our latest flu season, was addressed Tuesday. Forty-one states reported widespread flu cases.

The flu outbreak was earlier and more severe during winter 2012-2013, according to Dr. Stephen Redd, the head of the Pandemic Flu Response for the Center for Disease Control and a response coordinator for the swine flu epidemic in 2009.

The 2012-2013 flu season is a stark contrast to the previous one. The 2011-2012 season was one of the most mild in the last 30 years, Redd said.

The current strain of the flu virus, which has circulated before, is the most severe strain that can surface as the seasonal flu, Redd said.

'Unfortunately, it's going to have a greater impact. The important thing about this particular strain though is that the current vaccine does protect against all three strains that are circulating and the one that's more severe as well,' he said.

The immunity from the vaccine does not take effect until a couple of weeks after administration.

People who are the most at-risk, those with chronic conditions, young people and the elderly, are encouraged to get the vaccine to increase their protection.

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