The CDC is still urging people to get vaccinated. This flu season has been far harder than expected—thanks to the polar vortex creating ideal conditions in most of the country, and to H1N1 being the active strain this year (remember, there was an H1N1 pandemic a few years ago).
Normally, flu vaccination campaigns are targeted at the very young, old, and pregnant, who are at the highest risk for complications. Twice as many of them are vaccinated as those who are relatively healthy and between the ages of 18 and 64. It’s this later group the CDC is now targeting with the flu vaccine, which contains the H1N1 vaccine.
Now, the flu vaccine is only 60% effective when it functions optimally (meaning in a healthy young person), so while fewer may have had it if they’d gotten the vaccine, given the severity of the outbreak, it would still be pretty bad. Factors like people going to work while sick, the bad winter we’ve had, and the strength of H1N1 have probably had a bigger impact on flu numbers. In the at risk group (young, old, and pregnant) who have been better vaccinated, they have still experienced devastation this year—many hospitalizations and a high death rate.
Get the vaccine or don’t, but more importantly: take care of yourself as much as possible. Rest if you feel like you’re getting sick, stay home if you have symptoms of the flu, strengthen your immune system as much as possible. Fight flu transmission by washing hands frequently, running a humidifier, and avoiding crowded places.
The more important message here is that the flu is bad this year. And that there’s more you can do about it than just the flu shot.
How has the flu affected your community?