Friday, 30 January 2015

Flu's Grip on U.S. Starting to Weaken: CDC


Some areas are starting to see a decline in infections, official says

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Jan. 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- After a rough start to the flu season, the number of infections seems to have peaked and is even starting to decline in many parts of the nation, federal health officials reported Thursday.

"We likely reached our highest level of activity and in many parts of the country we are starting to see flu activity decline," said Dr. Michael Jhung, a medical officer in U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Influenza Division.

Jhung added, however, that flu remains widespread in much of the country.

As has been the case since the flu season began, the predominant type of flu continues to be an H3N2 strain, which is not a good match to this year's vaccine. The majority of H3N2-related infections diagnosed so far -- 65 percent -- are "different from the strain in the vaccine," he said.

The reason: the circulating H3N2 strain mutated after scientists settled last year on the makeup of this season's flu shot.

This year's flu season continues to hit children and the elderly hardest. And some children continue to die from flu. "That's not surprising," Jhung said, adding that 56 children have died from complications of flu.

In an average year, children's deaths vary from as few as 30 to as many as 170 or more, CDC officials said.

Jhung thinks that over the next few weeks, as in other flu seasons, different flu strains -- such as H1N1 -- will likely become more common. "I expect to see some other strains circulating, but I don't know how much," he said.

That could be good news on the vaccine front. Right now, the flu vaccine is only about 23 percent effective, due to the mutated H3N2 strain. But, as other strains become more widespread, the vaccine's effectiveness should increase, Jhung said.

Most years, flu vaccine effectiveness ranges from 10 percent to 60 percent, according to the CDC.

Twenty-three percent effectiveness means there's some benefit -- a little less flu among vaccinated people. Typically, flu is more common among the unvaccinated, but this year there's been a lot of flu both in people who are vaccinated and in those who aren't, CDC officials said.

source : Flu's Grip on U.S. Starting to Weaken: CDC

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