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What We Can Learn from Last Flu Season

young family with kids in the outdoors, flu season, flu vaccine concept

by Angela Beauchaine, M.D.

There is bad news – last year was the deadliest flu season in the United States since H1N1.

There is good news – you and your family still have time to protect yourselves by getting this season’s flu shot. And in case you think you might have already had the flu because you got that stomach bug your child brought home from school, you need to remember that the flu shot covers the Influenza virus, not the viruses that cause stomach flu. While vomiting and diarrhea are no fun, Influenza causes the worst head cold of the season with aches, chills, and nasty cough often leading to secondary ear infections, sinus infections, wheezing, and pneumonia.

Last Year’s Numbers

  • Hospitalizations: 900,000 in the U.S. (almost 1 million!)
  • Deaths: 80,000 in the U.S., which is almost triple the usual 30,000 (30,000 is about the number of deaths from car accidents)
  • The death toll for children: 180 died from the flu last season, making it the deadliest year for children in the U.S. since we have kept records

Even in a year when the flu vaccine match is not a perfect match for the strain making people sick – it was about 50% effective in children – the flu shot still prevented the need for medical care in as many as 2/3 of children who got the flu. While most healthy adults and school-aged children and teens are just miserable for a week if they get the flu, high-risk patients can have very severe versions of influenza.

Who is high risk?

  • Over 65 years of age
  • Under 2 years of age
  • Under 6 months of age: Very high risk because they can’t get their own flu vaccine
  • Children with neurodevelopmental disorders like Down’s syndrome
  • People with chronic illnesses: Asthma, heart disease, diabetes, and seizures are a few of the most common
  • Immunosuppressed: Especially high risk if you are taking a medication that suppresses the immune system or being treated for cancer
  • Households with a member in one of the above groups

Please join the staff and providers at Primary Health in getting your Influenza vaccine this year. It’s easy to make an appointment online with your child’s pediatrician or your family doctor or walk into any urgent care location (patients age 3 and older). Your family, coworkers, classmates, teammates, and community members will thank you.