WSW: A Bad Year for Flu
A vaccine that is not as effective as previous years and a strain of flu that has historically caused more illness and deaths make this a bad year for the flu.
Doctor David Davenport, Infectious Disease Specialist at Borgess Health says it's still a good idea to get a flu shot. He says the vaccine is effective for about 40% to 50% of patients. Davenport says even people who get the flu after being vaccinated are less likely to get seriously ill.
Davenport says the very young, elderly and people with underlying health problems such as a compromised immune system are most susceptible to developing serious complications from the flu.
Variations in severity of the flu year to year are caused by mutations in the virus. Davenport says those changes are slow over time. He says every 30 to 50 years there is a dramatic change in the makeup of influenza, that causes wide-spread pandemics. The Centers for Disease Control has said there is currently an epidemic of flu.
The vaccine is developed by scientists who are trying to predict the strains of flu that will come out the following year. Davenport says most years the vaccine is very effective, but he says this year it's only covering about 50% of the people getting a flu shot.
Borgess and Bronson recently announced some restrictions on visiting patients in an effort to prevent further spreading of the flu. Davenport says Borgess and Bronson also both have strict policies on employees who come down with influenza not working until they have fully recovered. He says the week of Christmas was very difficult for both hospitals. Davenport says there was a surge in flu patients at the same time a number of employees were home sick.