Nine more children die from flu this past week
This extremely nasty flu season is only half over and it is particularly harmful to children and seniors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nine more children have died in the past week due to flu-associated illnesses, bringing the total number of pediatric deaths to 29 this season. The agency also notes that the hospitalization rates for individuals 65 and older rose significantly in the most recent reporting period, which ended January 11. Once again, the CDC is stressing that people who have not been vaccinated should have one. The agency notes that it is not too late to get one.
The CDC notes that it may currently be more difficult to find a vaccination facility than it was earlier in the season. Individuals may need to contact more than one provider (pharmacy, health department, or doctor) to find available vaccine. The CDC has flu vaccine locator on its Web site that can aid people in their search. Manufacturers originally projected they would produce 135 million doses of flu vaccine this season. However, they have increased that estimate to 145 million. As of January 11, 129 million doses have been distributed. In addition to recommending vaccination, the CDC is urging physicians to order more vaccine, as the flu season is still ongoing.
Flu activity has been on the decline in the South; however, it is increasing in the West. The CDC notes that these fluctuations are not unusual and are likely due to the early start of flu season. Although the flu vaccine offers protection, the CDC notes that it is still possible to get the flu despite being vaccinated. First, people may be exposed to a flu virus shortly before getting vaccinated or during the two-week period it takes the body to develop an immune response following vaccination. Second, there’s a possibility of catching a different flu virus not included in the vaccine. Most of the viruses characterized by the CDC have been similar to the viruses in the vaccine; however, the flu vaccine is not likely to protect against other viruses. In addition, sometimes the flu vaccine is not as effective for some people, which means that some people can get sick with the flu despite being vaccinated. The ability of flu vaccine to protect a person depends, in part, on the health and age of the person being vaccinated. In general, the flu vaccine works best among young healthy adults and older children. Some older people and people with certain chronic illnesses may develop less immunity after vaccination.
Infected individuals have a responsibility to reduce the risk of infecting others. A common practice in many Asian nations is the wearing of a surgical mask. That practice has not caught on in the US; however, it is a good one. It may not look “cool,” however, it can prevent you from becoming an “Influenza Mary.” The CDC offers the following recommendations for people who have come down with the flu:
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you or your child gets sick with a respiratory illness, like flu, limit contact with others as much as possible to help prevent spreading illness. Stay home (or keep your child home) for at least 24 hours after fever is gone except to seek medical care or for other necessities. Fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
- If an outbreak of flu or another illness occurs, follow public health advice. This may include information about how to increase distance between people and other measures.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. This will block the spread of droplets from your mouth or nose that could contain germs.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
The CDC’s vaccine locator is available at this link.
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