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More young adults dying from flu this year

Teresa Tanoos's picture
CDC reports the flu had killed more young adults this year.

This season’s flu is killing more young adults and middle-aged folks in the U.S. than usual, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday.

The agency said that one reason for the increased flu deaths in these age groups is because young and middle-aged adults are less likely to get vaccinated.

The agency also said that over 60 percent of those who have been hospitalized or died from influenza this year have been between the ages of 18 and 64 – with 50 of the flu deaths being children.

Despite recent reports about the dangers of flu shots, which are contrary to reports from the CDC, federal officials say that this year’s flu vaccine has a 61 percent rate of effectiveness in protecting people against the flu.

In a conference call with reporters, Dr. Anne Schuchat of the CDC said that if you got a flu shot this season, you are “quite likely” to be protected from virus strains that have been circulating this year.

However, she added that “things could change” since the flu season is not yet over, and there is still a lot of flu going around. And if you haven’t gotten a flu shot yet this year, Schuchat said that it’s not too late to get one.

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In the past, those typically hit the hardest by influenza have been very young children and the elderly, with anywhere from 4,000 to 50,000 deaths from the flu reported annually in the U.S., depending on the year and the viruses circulating.

This year, however, the primary strain circulating is H1N1 flu, which hits young adults and those under 60 the hardest. H1N1 was last seen during the flu pandemic of 2009, and CDC officials think those over 60 may already have some immunity against H1N1 from exposure to a distant cousin of the strain in the past.

As for young children, the agency says that they, too, are more likely to have already had H1N1 or otherwise have been vaccinated against it – or both.

During the last influenza season, the CDC reports that only 35 percent of young and middle-aged adults were hospitalized due to flu complications, which may lead them to falsely believe this year’s influenza is not going to hit them or otherwise be a danger.

Indeed, the agency reports that just 34 percent of young adults and middle-aged Americans have gotten flu shots for this season. Yet, H1N1 is the main strain circulating that is hitting adults in those age groups hardest – and when it hits, flu symptoms are especially harsh, with even the healthiest of its victims often becoming seriously ill.

Whether or not you’ve been vaccinated, if you do come down with the flu, the CDC urges patients to see their doctors as soon as possible, as there are antiviral drugs like Tamiflu that can help minimize symptoms if treated right away.

SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Press Release: CDC Reports Flu Hit Younger People Particularly Hard This Season, published February 20, 2014.