“With the flu season now well underway…we need to stress always…that flu is deadly, and all Americans need to take this threat seriously,” announced Howard Koh, MD, PMH, assistant secretary for health in a telebriefing today. “That’s why the CDC…has promoted what’s called universal vaccination,” meaning that everyone except children under 6 months of age should receive influenza vaccinations.
The CDC also reminded parents that many children under 9 years old will need two doses for full protection. In a typical year, 20,000 children aged 6 months to 5 years will be hospitalized for flu and complications. Infants under 6 months cannot be immunized, so the best way to protect babies is to get all the people around them vaccinated.
Employers typically face direct flu costs of $10.4 billion every year for hospitalizations and office visits for workers. More than 12,000 people died last year from the H1N1 virus last year.
Flu activity is now increasing, CDC officials say, especially in southeast US. In particular this week, Georgia is reporting high levels, primarily in school-aged children.
A national phone survey showed that, as of mid-November, about one third of those surveyed had been vaccinated; of those aged 65 years or older, 64% had received their flu vaccine. People with asthma or diabetes have a worse time with flu, experts noted, as well as pregnant women.
This year’s vaccine is expected to provide good protection against the three main circulating strains (A/H3N2, B strain, and the 2009 H1N1 pandemic strain).
Source: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention