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Flu increases in West Virginia — get a vaccination

The Intelligencer and Wheeling News Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — West Virginia has reported influenza activity as “widespread” for the week ending Feb. 18.

Howard Gamble, administrator of the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department, said, “Although we are showing an increase in flu activity, it is not too late to get your seasonal flu vaccination.”

State health officials said it is likely that flu activity will continue for several more weeks this season, so getting vaccinated now can still provide protection.

West Virginia influenza activity has increased. Outbreaks of influenza continue to be reported in long-term care facilities across the state, and an increased number of flu-associated outbreaks have been reported in schools experiencing high rates of absenteeism.

The predominant strain circulating in West Virginia is influenza A, also known as H3N2, although there has been a significant number of influenza B viruses detected around the state. In a typical influenza season, only sporadic cases of influenza B have been reported, but during the 2016-17 influenza season, more than 30 percent of positive respiratory specimens have tested positive for influenza B.

Influenza activity continues to increase in the United States. Influenza A-predominant seasons are often associated with more severe illness, especially in young children and people 65 and older. For the week ending Feb. 18, the proportion of people seeing their health care provider for influenza-like illness increased to 5.2 percent.

Nine influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the week ending Feb. 18, bringing a total of 29 influenza-associated pediatric deaths reported for 2016-17 season.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a Feb. 17 report on the effectiveness of the season influenza vaccine for the 2016-17 season. Early estimates indicate that flu vaccines this season have reduced a vaccinated person’s risk of getting sick and needing medical care because of flu by 48 percent. Even during seasons when vaccine effectiveness is reduced, the vaccination can offer substantial benefit and might reduce the likelihood of severe outcomes such as hospitalization and death, according to health officials.

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