What's Going Around

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Even though many are getting a flu vaccine, the number of people getting sick continues to rise particularly in some western states.

In Colorado, about 6,300 cases have been reported and at least five people have died. Influenza researchers expect the nationwide death toll to surpass the average of 36,000.

The vaccine developed a year ago, was designed to protect against what health experts thought would be the predominant strains of the virus, but sometimes, like this year, their prediction falls short.

"This year, two strains have been common: strain A or Panama, and the Fujian strain. This vaccine protects against Panama, but not Fujian which is what's making people sick," Dr. James Haering.

Sparrow Hospital has treated only three people for the flu, but there are several other cases around the state. And now that we're in the thick of the holiday travel season, more people are expected to get sick since the virus can travel from those states that were hit the hardest.

"It's still best to get a vaccine because it can lessen the severity of your symptoms and hopefully you'll recover faster," said Dr. Haering.

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Influenza Vaccine

  • Much of the illness and death caused by influenza can be prevented by annual influenza vaccination.
  • Influenza vaccine is specifically recommended for people who are at high risk for developing serious complications as a result of influenza infection.
  • These high-risk groups are:
    • All people age 65 and older.
    • People of any age with chronic diseases of the heart, lungs or kidneys, diabetes, immunosuppression, or severe forms of anemia.
    • Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities housing patients of any age.
    • Women who will be more then three months pregnant during influenza season.
    • Children and teenagers who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy and who may therefore be at risk for developing Reye syndrome after an influenza virus infection.

  • Overall vaccine effectiveness varies from year to year, depending upon the degree of similarity between the influenza virus strains included in the vaccine and the strain or strains that circulate during the influenza season.

  • Influenza vaccine produced in the United States cannot cause influenza.

  • The only type of influenza vaccine that has been licensed in the United States is made from killed influenza viruses, which cannot cause infection.

When to receive the influenza vaccine

  • In the United States, influenza usually occurs from about November until April, with activity peaking between late December and early March.

  • The optimal time for vaccination of persons at high risk for influenza-related medical complications is during October through November.

  • It takes about 1 to 2 weeks after vaccination for antibody against influenza to develop and provide protection.

Source: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/flu/fluvac.htm ( The Center for Disease Control Vaccine Information Web site)