Saturday, 14 February 2015

Flu Sending Record Numbers of Elderly to the Hospital: CDC


But the worst seems to be over as season continues to wind down, officials say

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Feb. 13, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- While the flu season continues to show signs that it has peaked, it is hitting those over 65 the hardest, sending record numbers of older Americans to the hospital, U.S. health officials reported Friday.

Seniors may be hit harder by influenza this year because the predominant strain, H3N2, tends to be especially harmful in that age group, said Dr. Michael Jhung, a medical officer the Influenza Division at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to Jhung, another reason for the record number of elderly hospitalizations may be that this year's vaccine is not well matched to this year's flu strains.

"We are seeing more serious illness in elderly folks this year, even more so than in 2012-2013," he said. "That happens every time we have an H3N2 year, and this year happens to be the worst we've seen."

At the end of the 2012-2013 season, the rate of flu-linked hospitalizations for people 65 and older was around 183 cases per 100,000, according to Jhung. But this season, "we have [a rate of] 217 per 100,000," he noted, "and we have several weeks of the flu season to go, so that number is going to go up."

Compounding matters, this year's vaccine is only 23 percent effective overall and only 14 percent effective in people 50 and older, Jhung said.

"That combination of things is responsible for this high number of hospitalizations," he said.

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 those who aren't, CDC officials said. However, even a 23 percent vaccine effectiveness rate means many people will still gain some benefit from a flu shot, the CDC said.

But the elderly are at a slight disadvantage, the CDC said. That's because the effectiveness of the flu vaccine is often tied to the health of the recipient: Flu shots usually work best in young, healthy people, and are less effective in those 65 and older.

source : Flu Sending Record Numbers of Elderly to the Hospital: CDC

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