Colorado flu season off to a busy start, but docs say this year’s vaccine is a good match for strains going around
As the flu season gets underway in Colorado, a state health official is warning that it is especially important for people this year to get the flu vaccine — because the specific flu strain seen most so far is especially nasty.
The first statewide flu report, released Wednesday by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, shows that six people have been hospitalized for influenza since Oct. 1, the official start of flu season. About 20 people have been hospitalized since August. Both numbers are higher than average for this time of year, state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said, adding that such numbers could signal a wicked flu season.
“But influenza is unpredictable,” Herlihy said. “It could be an indicator that it is going to be a more severe season. But it could change.”
Upping the concern, though, is that many of the cases seen so far this year are from the H3N2 strain of the virus.
“That is the strain more typically associated with more severe illness in older adults,” Herlihy said.
Herlihy said that makes it all the more important for people to get vaccinated this year. Because the vaccine takes a bit to kick in, she said health officials recommend that people try to get their dose by the end of October. The vaccine provides protections against multiple strains of flu, including H3N2, she said. Studies suggest that vaccines perform worst in H3N2-dominant years, but Herlihy said early indications are that this year’s vaccine is a good match for the particular strains going around.
Adults older than 65, children under 5, pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions are most vulnerable to problems from the flu. But Herlihy said even healthy adults — who are better able to shrug off the flu — should get vaccinated because it will help prevent the spread of the virus to the vulnerable populations.
The vaccine is widely available at hospitals, clinics, public health offices and some businesses. People can go to the website vaccinefinder.org to find the nearest location.
Last season, 3,340 people were hospitalized for the flu in Colorado, and two children died. The state’s influenza surveillance system does not specifically track deaths of adults, Herlihy said. But there have been no reports of flu deaths for kids or adults so far this year, she said.
Nationally, there were almost 600,000 flu-related hospitalizations last season, Dr. Dan Jernigan, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s influenza division, said in a recent news conference. That made the 2016-17 flu season a moderate one, he said.
But Australia had a particularly rough flu season this year — during the Northern Hemisphere summer — putting national health officials here on guard.
“Does that mean we’ll have a bad season this fall?” Jernigan asked at the news conference, which was hosted last month in Washington, D.C., by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. “We don’t know exactly, but we want to be prepared for that, and it’s one reason why it’s important to get your vaccine.”
Vaccination rates improved nationally last year, according to CDC data. Nearly 47 percent of Americans received a flu vaccine in 2016, and nearly all of those vaccinations occurred early in the season. But that still meant that more than half the country went without the vaccine.
Herlihy said people shouldn’t risk it.
“The time is now to get your influenza vaccine,” she said.
- Published On : 6 days ago on October 12, 2017
- Author By : dannello
- Last Updated : October 12, 2017 @ 11:01 am
- In The Categories Of : News Medical
- Tagged With : Health and Fitness Articles, Medical News, News Health