Flu season may be longer and more severe this year

Cold weather is upon us, and with it, flu season.

Vaccinate Illinois Week (Dec. 7-13) coincides with National Influenza Vaccination Week, a national observance established to highlight the importance of getting vaccinated during the holiday season.

Each year, local, state and federal health officials urge citizens to get their vaccinations. This year is no different, but Monroe County Health Department administrator John Wagner said he thinks this flu season could be longer than in years past.

Flu season generally peaks in January and February, but vaccine news has been widespread already.

On Dec. 3, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health advisory stating that 91.4 percent of influenza-positive tests reported to the CDC were Type A (H3N2).

However, the vaccine has been effective in only around 48 percent of the Type A cases.

“Every year, (the CDC) has to guess what strain is going to be the most prevalent,” Wagner said. “They make the vaccine all summer long, and every few years, this happens. The strain they didn’t think was going to effect a lot of people has popped up.”

According to the CDC, in past seasons when this strain of the flu has been prominent, higher overall and age-specific hospitalization rates and more mortality have been observed, especially among older people, very young children and persons with certain chronic medical conditions compared with seasons during which other strains have dominated.

He said though the vaccine isn’t as effective against the most prominent flu strain right now, the vaccine still helps produce antibodies, which is important to fighting a virus.

“Everybody should still get the vaccination,” Wagner said. “This year, it’ll help reduce the severity of the flu and help the body fight infection.”

Wagner said the local numbers he’s seeing coincide with the numbers they’re seeing in St. Louis.

“My guess is that the flu season could be a little longer this season,” he said. “It’s not everywhere yet. This is just the beginning.”

As of mid-October, seven influenza vaccine manufacturers are projecting that as many as 151 million to 156 million doses of influenza vaccine will be available for use in the United States during the 2014-2015 influenza season.

Clinicians are encouraging all patients 6 months and older who have not received a vaccination yet this year to get one.

The CDC recommends a three-pronged approach to fighting influenza nationwide: the vaccination, use of neuraminidase inhibitor medications with confirmed or suspected flu, and use of preventa

tive health practices.

Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.

Wagner urges people suffering from flu-like symptoms to stay home from work and school to prevent the spread of the infection.

The vaccination is important for health care workers or others who live with or care for high-risk people to keep from spreading flu to high-risk people.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, one of the biggest myths about the flu is a person can get the flu from a flu vaccine. In reality, the flu shot contains killed viruses, and the nasal spray treatment has a weakened virus that cannot cause illness.

It takes the body approximately two weeks to build up protection after the vaccination.

Monroe County residents can get the flu vaccination at the health department building on Illinois Avenue in Waterloo or at local pharmacies like Walgreens.


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