Posts Tagged ‘Influenza epidemic’




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“Following earlier warnings from the CDC that this year’s flu season could be more aggressive than other years, the agency announced that flu incidence has crossed the epidemic threshold. An emailed statement from the CDC’s flu division said that influenza “reaches an epidemic level when the proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza reaches a certain threshold: 6.8 percent.” Most major national outlets covered the story, focusing on both the characteristics of this year’s strain and the efficacy of the vaccines currently available. Local media have focused on the flu as it has affected local hospitals and school systems.

“The Washington Post (12/30, Ohlheiser) reports that the CDC’s announcement that this year’s flu activity has reached “epidemic levels” comes as “the number of states reporting a ‘high’ level of influenza activity jumped from 13 to 22 in one week.” The dominant strain of the flu this year is H3N2, and in early December CDC Director Tom Frieden warned that “H3N2 predominant seasons tend to have more hospitalizations and more deaths.”

“Similarly, ABC News (12/31) chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser said that “while this year’s strain of the virus is especially severe,” the flu “can always be deadly for children, the elderly and anyone with a compromised immune system.”

USA Today (12/31, Grisham) reports that according to Michael Smith, a doctor and chief medical editor for WebMD, the H3N2 strain of the flu “isn’t uncommon; it’s just not what was predicted when the flu vaccine was created.” What ultimately gets included in the vaccine is decided each year by the FDA “based on recommendations from the World Health Organization” and “takes about six months to produce.”

“Reporting on the available treatments, Bloomberg News (12/31, Cortez, Edney) adds that some areas of the US “are experiencing spot shortages of Tamiflu (oseltamivir),” one of the mainline flu treatments for this year.”

Blogfinger Medical Commentary:  By Paul Goldfinger, MD, FACC

Influenza can result in a “superinfection” with pneumonia.   Such lung infections can cause death in about 8% of cases, and the combination can cause a patient to get very ill and wind up in the hospital.    

If you are over 50, ask your doctor about a new vaccine to prevent pneumonia called Prevnar13.  It is not 100% protective, but it can offer good results in some people. It is a single shot treatment, and it doesn’t matter if you had a pneumovax shot in the past  (except less than one year ago.)

If you haven’t had a flu vaccine, you can still get one.   This new pneumonia vaccine can cost about $135.00, but Medicare may pay for it.

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