Despite a recent uptick in the number of flu cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting that this season's flu vaccine has a 59 percent effective rate. This is quite the increase from last season which only had a 33 percent effective rate.
The news from the CDC comes as the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is reporting a seasonal high in flu-like illnesses. The Raleigh News and Observer reported that as of February 25, four people in North Carolina have died from the flu. This is a drastic drop from last year, which saw more than 180 deaths in the state.
"This means that getting a flu vaccine this season reduced the risk of having to go to the doctor because of flu by nearly 60 percent," the CDC's Joseph Bresee said in a written statement. "It's good news and underscores the importance and the benefit of both annual and ongoing vaccination efforts this season."
Specifically, the CDC reports that the vaccine is 51 percent effective for H1N1—which has been responsible for most flu illnesses this season—76 percent effective against influenza B viruses, and 79 percent effective against B/Yamagata lineage of B viruses.
Flu season got off to a slow start this year as milder-than-usual temperatures played a role in keeping people outside rather than stuffed indoors with sick coworkers, friends, and classmates. In the past five weeks, however, there has been an uptick in flu activity which is expected to continue for several more weeks.
Bresee said that the CDC has received reports of hospitalizations and deaths in young, otherwise healthy people who were not vaccinated.
The four flu-related deaths reported in North Carolina were all adults, one over the age of 65.
To prevent the flu, the CDC recommends getting the flu shot every year, washing your hands regularly with soap and water, and staying away from people who are sick. Babies, small children, the elderly and anyone with a compromised immune system is especially at risk for the flu.
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