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General Health : Infectious Disease Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM

CDC: Poor vaccine faces widespread flu
By Sue Mueller
Feb 16, 2008 - 10:56:52 AM

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SATURDAY FEB 16, 2008 ( -- Health officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested Friday the influenza vaccine currently available may be ineffective in preventing many infections caused by some strains because the flu vaccine is not engineered to prevent infections of those strains, which now are much more active now in every state than early January.

"This season, we are seeing more disease out there and higher rates of hospitalizations and deaths than we've seen in the last couple of years," Dr. Joe Bresee, chief of the branch of epidemiology and prevention at the CDC's Influenza Division, told reports during a teleconference.

The current flu vaccine, which critics say is not as effective as thought and many people who got shots could still get flu, does not cover genetic material that riggers immunity against the concerned strains.  

The CDC early reported the flu vaccine does not match two of the three strains of influenza circulating across the United States.

In addition, an increasing number of flu strains have developed resistant to a common antiviral medication indicated to relieve the flu symptoms, but not to prevent it from occurring.

The flu virus strains most commonly seen in the United States right now is influenza A H3N2, which is unfortunately not included in this year's vaccine.  The vaccine is not well matched against influenza B either, according to Bresee.

The CDC reported on Friday in its periodical Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that influenza A (H3N2) viruses were more of a threat than influenza A (H1N1) viruses during January 20--February 9, 2008 and during the week ending February 9, H3N2 became the predominant virus for the season overall.

Among influenza A viruses, according to the CDC report, influenza A (H1N1) has predominated in the New England, Mid-Atlantic, West North Central, Mountain, and Pacific regions while influenza A (H3N2) has predominated in the East North Central, South Atlantic, East South Central, and West South Central regions.

For the week ending Feb 9, 5.7 percent of outpatient visits were made for influenza like illness as reported by 1,400 U.S. sentinel providers in 50 states, Chicago, the District of Columbia and New York City. The national baseline is 2.2 percent.

Also for the same week, 3.5 percent of outpatient visits were made for acute respiratory illness, compared to 3.2 percent - the national baseline, according to the CDC.

Widespread influenza activity was reported first in Colorado during the week ending January 5. By Feb 9, widespread flu activity was reported in 44 states. As of Feb 9, 10 children have died from flu complications this year.

The World Health Organization already announced THURSDAY it recommends next year's flu vaccine should cover flu H3N2 strain and other strains, Bresee said.

Drug resistance is also a concern.  About 8.1 percent of this year's influenza type A virus strains are showing resistance to Tamiflu, the antiviral drug that the governments have enlisted to prevent what critics say is a non-existing future flu pandemic, which would as claimed kill potentially millions of people worldwide.  Last year the resistance rate was less than 1 percent, Bresee said.

Although the current vaccine does not cover immunity against certain flu strains, the CDC recommends that people get flu shots as the agency claims the vaccine still offer partial protection and could reduce risk of flu-related complications.

Flu complications sicken an estimated 5 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. population, leading to hospitalization of more than 200,000 people and about 36,000 deaths, according to the CDC.

People who have their immune system damaged by whatever causes are most susceptible to flu although healthy individuals can recover from flu without any medical interventions.  People with health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease are at high risk of serious flu complication, the CDC said.

For more information, read

Update: Influenza Activity --- United States, September 30, 2007--February 9, 2008
Seasonal flu update

© 2004-2008 by unless otherwise specified

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