Health department offering free flu shots

Faith Castro
January 14, 2018

The department notes there were no influenza outbreaks reported in Newfoundland and Labrador so far during this flu season.

From Aug. 27, 2017, to January 6, the DPH said there have been a total of 1,015 laboratory samples that tested positive for the flu.

Their biggest concern is the high rate of people hospitalized for the flu in recent weeks. According to the state Department of Health, the predominant circulating strain of flu is H3N2, which is associated with more hospitalizations and deaths among young children and among adults 65 and older.

The flu also hit Australia hard during its season earlier in 2017, which has led some people to (unfairly) call that strain the "Aussie flu".

Los Angeles County health officials this week reported 36 deaths this flu season, compared to 13 people for the same time previous year. But health officials say it's too early to say if the flu shot is less effective this year or if the flu season peaked earlier.

Wadsworth Center, the state health department's laboratory, reports a 37 percent jump in laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu in recent weeks. In 2016, the total was 20,101, and in 2015 there were 54,316 total flu cases reported. Antiviral medications can be prescribed to all hospitalized, severely ill and high-risk patients with confirmed or suspected flu, but the drugs work best when treatment is started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

"If you do become unwell with flu or flu-like symptoms, you should stay at home - most cases of flu are likely to be mild and can be managed at home with over-the-counter remedies", she said.

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Flu shot effectiveness varies from year to year for several reasons, including strain mutations and the types of strains that are spread during a particular season.

Haggie says there are suggestions that one of the four strains of the virus contained in this year's influenza vaccine is less than flawless.

Peak flu activity, according to the DPH, is expected to be in mid-February.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that this year's vaccine is only about 30 percent effective. Based on the data gathered, three or four strains are chosen to be included in the flu vaccine that year. "We now have the vaccine on hand and want to get it out, especially in light of the current increase in flu cases".

This year, the Health Department has given 12,957 flu vaccines, and is expecting to give more as the flu season continues.

The average age of the other 34 who have died of the flu is 75 years old, cabinet officials said.

To be protected from the flu, the CDC recommends getting a flu vaccine every year. For more information about the flu visit the CDC's website.

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