This year's flu shot is less than 50% effective in preventing infection, CDC says

Don't let your guard down: The US flu season is expected to continue for several more weeks, with activity across the nation now elevated, the US Centers for...

Posted: Feb 14, 2019 2:55 PM

Don't let your guard down: The US flu season is expected to continue for several more weeks, with activity across the nation now elevated, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday. A flu shot is still recommended for those who have neglected to get one, but the CDC estimated this year's vaccine's overall effectiveness in preventing an infection at just 47%.

The shot's success varies based on your age, the CDC noted. Among children up to 17, its overall effectiveness against flu was 61%, while just 24% of adults 50 and older who received the shot gained protection against infection.

Studies show that vaccination reduces the risk of influenza-related deaths in children; 80% of the children in the United States who died from flu last season were unvaccinated. Additionally, the shot "prevents a substantial number of influenza-related illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths annually," noted the authors of the new CDC report.

Dr. William Schaffner, medical director of the nonprofit National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, said that those who get flu after receiving vaccine are less likely to require hospitalization and are less likely to die of the illness.

"The vaccine is not perfect," Schaffner said. "But give the vaccine credit for softening the blow."

The virus' severity this season compared with last has been low, with a smaller percentage of doctor's office visits, lower rates of hospitalization and fewer deaths through February 2, the CDC reports. The official start of the season was September 30; activity remained low during October and November, increased in late December and then remained elevated through early February.

Twenty-eight children have died of flu-related complications this season as of February 2, the CDC noted.

"Fingers crossed that we're now heading toward the bottom part of the season," said Richard Webby, a flu scientist and adviser to the World Health Organization on recommendations for the composition of flu vaccines. "Overall, it's been a relatively mild season, and compared to last year, it's a bit of a welcome reprieve."

The reason for that is that milder H1N1 strains of the influenza virus have dominated in most of the country, with H3N2, a strain that causes more severe illness that ran rampant last winter, predominating in southeastern areas.

In recent weeks, though, the proportion of illness due to H3N2 has grown in several regions.

Last winter was the deadliest US flu season in more than four decades. An estimated 80,000 Americans, including 180 children, died of flu and its complications, the CDC reported. Additionally, the nation experienced an estimated 900,000 hospitalizations, a record, during the last season.

Overall, the effectiveness of the seasonal flu vaccine for last season was estimated to be 40%. This means the vaccine reduced a person's risk of having to seek medical care by 40%, the CDC found. Yet, among children, the shot was estimated to be 59% effective.

Despite the fact that the strains circulating this winter are aligned with the viruses used to make the vaccine, the manufacturing process tends to cause slight changes that create a mismatch, Webby explained. This season's flu shot is "clearly not where we want it to be, but it has been superior overall than the past few seasons," he said.

The CDC also recommends antiviral medication for people "with confirmed or suspected influenza who have severe, complicated, or progressive illness; who require hospitalization; or who are at high risk for influenza complications."

In October, the US Food and Drug Administration approved a new antiviral, baloxavir marboxil or Xofluza, a single-dose oral prescription drug. The pill is intended for patients 12 or older who have had symptoms for no more than 48 hours.

The antiviral is the first flu treatment approved by the FDA in nearly 20 years. During past seasons, Tamiflu has been the antiviral medication prescribed for many people.

When patients with the flu are treated within 48 hours of becoming sick, antiviral drugs can reduce symptoms and duration of illness, according to the FDA. There are side effects for both drugs, including diarrhea, bronchitis, headache and nausea for Xofluza and nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and headache for Tamiflu.

Finally, the CDC recommends practicing common-sense methods of preventing the spread of flu. Wash your hands thoroughly, and avoid close contact with those who are sick. If you feel yourself becoming sick, remember to cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and if you are sick, stay home if possible.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 67857

Reported Deaths: 2975
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion14710719
Lake7037269
Elkhart458276
Allen3611157
St. Joseph311479
Hamilton2489104
Cass17509
Hendricks1742105
Vanderburgh170012
Johnson1648118
Porter117439
Tippecanoe109411
Clark107545
Madison84265
LaPorte82929
Kosciusko81612
Howard80464
Marshall74222
Bartholomew73847
Floyd68444
Monroe68430
Noble63528
Delaware63352
Boone63246
Dubois62412
Hancock61637
Jackson5514
LaGrange54210
Shelby50926
Warrick50230
Grant49629
Vigo46810
Dearborn46128
Morgan41832
Henry36118
Clinton3523
White34510
Montgomery33821
Lawrence32627
Wayne3159
Decatur31332
Harrison28922
Miami2582
Scott24710
Daviess24319
Greene23834
DeKalb2214
Putnam2218
Jennings20712
Franklin20510
Jasper2032
Steuben1993
Gibson1984
Ripley1887
Perry17112
Starke1647
Orange16324
Wabash1583
Posey1570
Fayette1547
Jefferson1492
Whitley1486
Fulton1442
Carroll1422
Wells1312
Knox1290
Huntington1183
Washington1151
Spencer1133
Newton10910
Tipton1065
Randolph1024
Clay975
Jay820
Adams812
Rush794
Owen781
Sullivan751
Pulaski711
Brown701
Fountain632
Benton600
Blackford532
Ohio504
Parke451
Pike450
Switzerland430
Crawford420
Martin420
Vermillion380
Union320
Warren191
Unassigned0200

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 93031

Reported Deaths: 3529
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin17107514
Cuyahoga12646477
Hamilton9110247
Lucas4852318
Montgomery402477
Summit3248217
Marion287544
Butler268359
Mahoning2393253
Pickaway235242
Stark1679132
Lorain162076
Warren160035
Columbiana157060
Trumbull1421103
Fairfield123825
Delaware119418
Licking111642
Clark107613
Lake103435
Wood91058
Clermont83510
Medina83133
Miami76837
Tuscarawas74613
Portage71160
Allen64642
Greene61911
Belmont58926
Ashtabula53845
Richland53610
Geauga52843
Mercer52213
Erie51627
Wayne49258
Ross3874
Huron3714
Ottawa35225
Athens3441
Madison32910
Sandusky32917
Holmes3206
Darke31627
Hancock3152
Lawrence2160
Union2141
Auglaize2135
Jefferson2043
Washington19722
Putnam19317
Coshocton1856
Scioto1851
Muskingum1781
Knox1652
Crawford1645
Preble1642
Morrow1582
Shelby1574
Seneca1533
Hardin15012
Clinton1466
Fulton1391
Ashland1303
Defiance1294
Highland1271
Williams1233
Logan1201
Wyandot1195
Brown1121
Guernsey1106
Hocking1089
Carroll1075
Henry1061
Champaign1051
Perry1052
Fayette940
Monroe9018
Van Wert681
Pike660
Jackson650
Paulding590
Gallia571
Adams532
Vinton302
Meigs240
Morgan200
Harrison191
Noble160
Unassigned00
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