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Doctors see increase in Alaska flu cases

By Lori Tipton 1:23 PM January 8, 2014

"There's still certainly time to get out there if you haven't been immunized yet," said Dr. Michael Cooper with the Division of Public Health.

ANCHORAGE – Flu season in Alaska is ramping up, according to an infectious disease specialist with the State of Alaska.

“There’s still certainly time to get out there if you haven’t been immunized yet,” said Dr. Michael Cooper with the Division of Public Health.

The Department of Health and Social Services only keeps track of lab confirmed flu cases.  According to Cooper, the department has seen an increase in those over the last couple weeks. The current flu vaccines seem to be a good match for the viruses circulating, he said, including H1N1.

“One of the unique things about that strain is that it can affect younger people disproportionally,” Cooper said.

Typically, the flu impacts the elderly population, but he said that’s not the case with H1N1 — children are more susceptible.

Cooper also noted there is a lot of misinformation about the vaccine, and emphasized you cannot get the flu from a flu shot.  You can, however, have a reaction to the vaccine.

“It mounts an immune response in your body when you get the flu shot so you can build up immunity,” he said.

That reaction can be similar to flu-like symptoms.

“The flu vaccine, it’s safe,” he said. “It’s not 100 percent effective, but it’s very effective when you combine it with things like covering your cough and staying home if you’re ill — together, they do a pretty good job of preventing the flu.”

Nationally, flu season can stretch from October to May. It typically peaks in January or February.

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