State says this year's flu shot is 35% effective
Flu season is in full swing here in Alaska, and compared to last year at this time, there is more than four times the number of flu cases.
However, there's some good news. While Australia’s flu shot was just 10 percent effective, state epidemiologists say Alaska is well positioned to prevent a widespread outbreak.
“The virus is just so unpredictable and constantly changing, and so that is why every year we recommend they get a new vaccine for that season's strain,” says Donna Fearey, a nurse epidemiologist with the Department of Health and Social Services.
In 2014, the season peaked in October. The year before that, however, December was the worst month, and in 2015/2016, the brunt of the flu didn't hit until April.
This season still remains to be seen. So far, the state has seen 1,140 cases, a number that’s more than four times where we were last year at this time when the state recorded 252 cases of influenza.
Here's what's so hard about nailing the flu shot: it's made months before the big outbreak, which is a problem because the virus is unpredictable and can easily change.
This year is the same strain of the flu as last year, H3N2, which caused more kids and the elderly to be hospitalized.
The state predicts this year's flu vaccine will be about 35 percent effective, which is a little worse than the average of 42 percent. Not the best, but still better than nothing at all.
“There's (sic) plenty of vaccine available-- anti-virals are not in short supply, so I think our community has the resources to deal with this influenza season.”
Doctors say it's especially important to get a flu shot when the effectiveness is lower than normal. The more people are protected, the more other people will also be protected. Also, if you get the flu shot, it will likely be less severe than if you didn't get the shot.
The state says you are infectious 24 hours before you show symptoms, which is why it's so hard to stop the flu from spreading. Also, epidemiologists say anti-viral medication is very important to prevent hospitalization. If you feel like you can't breathe or are concerned about how you feel, you should go see your doctor.
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