Medicine

Flu season could be the worst in almost a decade

Flu season could be the worst in almost a decade

Clark County has confirmed one flu-related death so far this season in Las Vegas and surrounding areas.

There are now specially-designed flu vaccines for seniors, meant to protect older people who face an increased risk from influenza.

In the case of H3N2, the vaccine component has been genetically altered somewhat as a result of the manufacturing process, which involves growing vast quantities of the virus in eggs.

There are also concerns that this year's flu shot may not be all that effective in preventing the respiratory illness. No deaths have been reported in the state's two most populous counties.

The flu season is declared under-way once we have reached an above-average number of people with influenza symptoms (i.e. more than 2.2 percent of people).

Despite its low effectiveness, Brammer urges everyone aged 6 months and older to get a flu shot. Reports coming out of Australia, where the yearly flu strikes first, indicate 93,000 cases of H3N2, a subtype of influenza A. That's more than double the usual number of cases, and particularly worrisome given influenza A typically hits young children and the elderly the hardest.

More than a quarter of pregnant women reported that medical staff did not recommend or offer a flu shot.

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"If you're not excited about getting vaccinated yourself, do it for the people you love", Mills said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say you should be vigilant with washing your hands, avoid touching your eyes and mouth, get plenty of sleep and eat healthy to help give your immune system a boost.

Schwartz, who was not involved in the CDC reports, said some of her patients take the flu shot, but others do not.

Data from the CDC's interactive flu-tracking site show cases of people falling ill with "influenza-like illnesses" (ILI) are more widespread than in previous years.

Lisa Smith said she thinks everyone should think critically about the vaccine before they roll up a sleeve.

It's too early to tell if H3N2 will continue to be the predominant strain or whether H1N1 will surpass it, Brammer said. The nasal spray vaccine that has been available in recent years is no longer considered effective and is not available.