Provisions to take during flu season

Deadliest week yet for children with flu CDC reports

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From January 29 to February 10, nearly 4,000 flu vaccines have been administered to Louisianans at no cost to the public as part of the Department's efforts to make vaccines available to as many people as possible.

State health officials recorded 17 more deaths from flu-related symptoms between February 4-10, according to a Thursday report, bringing the total number of deaths since October 1 to 165. And health officials say it's still not too late to get vaccinated - they expect flu season will last at least another few weeks. The vaccination was only helpful in preventing 25 percent of H3N2 virus, and only 36 percent of flu virus overall.

But the good news is that it works better in kids.

Influenza A (H3N2) viruses continue to predominate within the United States and CT although influenza A (H1N1) and influenza B viruses are also being reported. There are some indications, he said, that some vaccine production techniques produce better H3N2 protection than others do.

For Thursday's report, they looked at the cases of 4,562 kids and adults who showed up with flu-like illness at the five sites. Typically the very old, very young, and immuno-compromised are hit hardest by the flu. That makes sense; having difficulty breathing at a "normal" time can be exacerbated when the flu strikes and lungs are damaged.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends antiviral drugs be used early to treat people who are very sick with the flu (for example, people who are in the hospital) and people who are sick with the flu and are at high risk of serious flu complications due to their age or because they have a high-risk medical condition. Among the 54 whose vaccination status was known, 74 percent had not been vaccinated.

Two of three flu related pediatric deaths also occurred last week. That data will come later. Australia's end-of-season estimates found even less effectiveness against the same strain for that nation's vaccine: a mere 10 percent.

In response to one of the worst influenza seasons in recent years, the Wolf Administration will hold 41 free influenza vaccine clinics at locations across the state throughout the remainder of the month. And it was 42 percent effective against Type B flu viruses.

The low efficacy was not the result of a mistake, CDC acting director Dr. Anne Schuchat said.

The CDC tested the now approved antiviral medications oseltamivir (brand name Tamiflu), peramivir (Rapivab) and zanamivir (Relenza Diskhaler) against the now circulating flu strains. The vaccine is available to anyone who has not yet received a vaccine this flu season. Some are stronger for older people with weaker immune systems and some are made using newer technology. The flu vaccine does not contain active viruses and can not infect you.

Scott Hensley, an associate professor of microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania who studies flu vaccines, said this year's vaccine is about as effective against H3N2 as last year's was, but it's still valuable to get the shot.

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