Opinion

Take precautions with active flu season

An editorial from The Herald-Dispatch 

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The flu season is upon us.

In our region, the outbreaks are fairly widespread, but in line with previous years. But nationally, there have been 15 deaths, and this week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared the flu season an epidemic after the number of states with a high amount of “influenza-like” activity increased from 13 to 22.

The nearby state of Tennessee is one of the hardest hit areas, and the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital has seen 442 children with the flu this month, and state officials have attributed six deaths to the flu. Kentucky and Ohio also have outbreaks that are considered widespread. Adding to the problem is that the most prevalent strain of the flu is different from the strain this year’s flu vaccine was designed to prevent. That means some people who have gotten their flu shot are still getting the flu.

“The whole issue here is that our vaccine is chosen a year in advance, and it is an educated guess, to put it bluntly,” said Dr. Thomas Rushton, director of infectious diseases and chairman of infection prevention at St. Mary’s Medical Center.

Low vaccination rates also are a factor. Nationally, less than half of the population got a flu shot last year. West Virginia was a little higher with 52 percent coverage, but Ohio and Kentucky were about 45 percent.

Even if this year’s flu vaccine is not right on target, it is still recommended…

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