Health department recommends Alabamians get a flu shot

OSDH reports a total of 23 deaths and 827 hospitalizations associated with the flu since the season began in September.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this year's flu vaccine has proven to be 48 percent effective in preventing the illness. Overall, 166 South Dakotans have been hospitalized with the flu this season, with five confirmed deaths.

During the 2015-2016 season, vaccine effectiveness was 47% - about the same as this season.

Think of it like this, Piedra said: The vaccine essentially cuts your odds of contracting the flu in half, and it protects against the most severe strains of the virus, potentially keeping you out of the hospital. "The prediction for the H3N2 virus was right on in terms of that particular virus continuing to be a dominant virus".

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Most of the flu sufferers this year have contracted H3N2, a strain of the virus known to be particularly hard on the elderly. In fact, the vaccines this year are considered a good match to all now circulating strains.

"Unfortunately, we won't really know when it ends until it's over", Landers said.

During week five of this year's flu season, there were 396 new confirmed-flu associated hospitalizations in OH compared to 395 the week before. Antiviral drugs may be indicated as a prevention measure tfor especially vulnerable persons such as infants less than 6 months old, or persons of any age with a medical condition which severely suppresses their immune system.

"We can't predict when it is going to level off".

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OH also has its fourth confirmed influenza-associated pediatric death in the last two weeks. "Of course, we know that some people who get the shot will still get the flu".

Idaho, on the other hand, has identified an increase in the cases of flu this year. For example, it seemed like a peak occurred in early January, but afterward, activity rose in several areas.

While vaccination provides the greatest protection against the flu, other effective ways to avoid getting or spreading it include: washing hands frequently or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer; covering coughs and sneezes with tissues, or coughing or sneezing into elbows; avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth; and staying home when sick and until fever-free for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medication.

The flu shot is an inactivated influenza vaccine. "There are no flu vaccine shortages across OH and it is available at most healthcare providers' offices, local health departments and retail pharmacies".

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