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Flu down locally, but raging nationally

Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 1:19 PM
Last updated Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013 6:50 PM
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While flu is widespread in almost every state, it is down in Augusta from peaks in November and December, physicians said.

An early estimate of flu vaccine efficacy showed it was only about 62 percent effective, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday. That is about average for seasonal flu vaccines, other studies show.

While the number of states reporting widespread flu, where more than 50 percent of local areas, such as counties, are seeing flu, rose from 41 to 47 in the latest reporting period, the CDC reported in its weekly FluView. However, the number of states experiencing high levels of flu activity declined from 29 to 24 and the overall percentage of patients who showed up with flu-like symptoms declined to 4.3 percent from 6 percent, CDC noted. The declines appear to be in the South and Southeast, where flu activity showed up this season first, but it is too early to say whether those areas are past their peak, said Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC.

“Only time will tell us how long our season will last and how moderate or how severe this season will be in the end,” he said.

The season did have an unusually early start, about a month earlier than expected, Frieden said.

Medical College of Georgia, Doctors and University hospitals reported heavier caseloads of flu in November and December, but less recently.

“It hit hard and fast early on,” said Dr. Mark Newton, the medical director of the Emergency Room at Doctors Hospital. “Now it has slowed down a little bit here.”

Rates of people coming in with flu at University were much higher at the end of November and the beginning of December, said Dr. Craig Smith, the hospital’s medical director for infectious diseases. Where about half the people coming into the ER back then had flu-like illness, it was down to about 25-30 percent now, he said.

In fact, in a spotcheck of MCG’s and University’s Emergency Rooms Friday afternoon, there was not a single person there reporting flu-like symptoms.

Still, Frieden said, there is time for people to be vaccinated against flu if they have not already been. But in a CDC study of 1,155 people from Dec. 3 to Jan. 2, this year’s flu vaccine was 62 percent effective overall, showing about 55 percent efficacy against the more prevalent influenza A strain and 70 percent effectiveness against influenza B.

Historically, flu vaccines have ranged from about 50-70 percent effective in any given season, said Dr. Joseph Bresee, the chief of the epidemiology and prevention branch of the Influenza Division at CDC.

An analysis of flu vaccine effectiveness published last year in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases found an overall efficacy of about 59 percent for seasonal flu vaccines studied over 12 seasons. A study published last year from the Australian National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health of seasonal flu vaccine effectiveness from 2007 to 2011 found overall effectiveness was 62 percent, with results ranging from 31 percent against the seasonal influenza A H1N1 strain to 88 percent effectiveness against the pandemic A H1N1 strain.

“What we’ve know for a long time is the flu vaccine is far from perfect, but it is still by far the best tool we have to prevent the flu,” Frieden said.

Even if the person still gets the flu, getting the vaccine can result in a milder illness that could make a big difference in vulnerable populations, Smith said.

“Especially in elderly people and people with bad chronic diseases (such as diabetes), while they may still get sick, the vaccine effect decreases mortality,” he said.

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Little Lamb
47986
Points
Little Lamb 01/11/13 - 01:49 pm
5
2
Public Ignorance

In this case, the public ignorance is fueled by the medical industry, and abetted by news media bordering on the sensationalistic. Here's the problem — the current flu vaccine takes about two weeks to effectively immunize you after you take it. And the immunity begins to wear off beginning three to four weeks after the shot. The medical community (and all those drug stores offering the shot at $25 a pop), use the news media to whip the public into a frenzy to take your flu vaccine in August. That's way too early because your immunity begins to wear off in October and is pretty well shot by November. Now, you hear calls in the media for people to go and get a second shot in January. It's a marketing ploy to get unsuspecting people to buy two flu shots for the flu season.

If you are going to fall for flu vaccine, the best strategy is to get the vaccine in early to mid-November. That way, you'll only need one.

Tom Corwin
10514
Points
Tom Corwin 01/11/13 - 02:36 pm
4
3
Little Lamb

I would like to see the data you cite for the antibodies waning after three to four weeks. That period would probably vary greatly by age (as does the ability to create antibodies) but the figure I have heard in the past is more like seven months.

Thanks.

soapy_725
43949
Points
soapy_725 01/11/13 - 02:39 pm
2
0
Excellent analogy LL
Unpublished

All about the Benjamin's !!! Even private doctors are vaccinating too early. Yes, it the power of the media that drives our live from day to day. And if it is not the MD telling to get that shot early and you don't, Medicare will call to see why you have not got the shot.

Little Lamb
47986
Points
Little Lamb 01/11/13 - 02:41 pm
4
2
If

If it is seven months, then why have the news media (echoing press releases from CDC and other medical outlets) been advising people who got flu shots early in the season to get another one now?

soapy_725
43949
Points
soapy_725 01/11/13 - 02:43 pm
2
0
If it is 60% effective and only 25% get the shot...
Unpublished

would it then be 15% effective? Just line everyone up like we did for polio. Send the police to find those who do not submit.

foosox
12
Points
foosox 01/11/13 - 03:02 pm
7
0
Flu Vaccine

Our family physician told us to get the vaccine in Nov. a couple of years ago. It has worked like a charm!

Tom Corwin
10514
Points
Tom Corwin 01/11/13 - 03:34 pm
3
1
Little Lamb

I have not heard the CDC advising people who got a flu shot earlier to get another one. I heard the director today say it is not too late for those who have not gotten a shot to get one.

Fiat_Lux
16246
Points
Fiat_Lux 01/11/13 - 05:01 pm
6
0
Tom's got the better info on this

Even the elderly will have immunity that lasts through the flu season once their immune systems have been adequately activated to recognize the bug and fight it off.

The reason so few people at MCG seem to have gotten more than 2-3 days of feeling somewhat rotten instead of a week or more of thinking they're dying is because everyone was required to get a flu shot. The one person I know there who didn't has been sicker than stink for 8 days, while no one else in that office area has had more than the sniffles.

Get your flu shot.

Willow Bailey
20603
Points
Willow Bailey 01/11/13 - 05:53 pm
4
2
I got my shot in October and

I got my shot in October and currently enjoying a good case of the flu. I'll put my money on LL

TCB22
691
Points
TCB22 01/11/13 - 07:17 pm
6
1
Misinformation is harmful

While the flu vaccine does take about two weeks to provide immunity, it lasts for about 9 months.

The vaccine that we got in October covers three flu strains. There is a strain out there that wasn't anticipated in the vaccine. However, if you did get a shot you won't get as sick from that strain.

The media needs to keep this story out there so people will wash their dang hands a lot more, don't cough or sneeze without a tissue to cover your mouth, and stay the heck home if they have it.

Misinformation runs rampant in the comments here, just for the sake of trying to sound flippant and clever. Ugh.

soapy_725
43949
Points
soapy_725 01/12/13 - 10:03 am
1
0
One local TV station yesterday......
Unpublished

tried parroting what is on the NET, misspoke that since the vaccine takes two weeks to be effective, folks could take antibiotics for the two weeks. Do antibiotics cure the flu? Think not. If the antibiotics cured the flu then logically the antibiotic would render the low dose of the virus dead. Stick to reporting the news and not creating same, ABC. Some viewers can actually reason for themselves.

Active immunity is the process.

soapy_725
43949
Points
soapy_725 01/12/13 - 10:07 am
1
0
Another one of those pillars of our nation
Unpublished

that has crumbled. The truthful reporting of events. Not the opinionated interpretation of events. News vs. Editorials.

Little Lamb
47986
Points
Little Lamb 01/12/13 - 10:23 am
2
0
Fiat

Thanks for the information about the mandatory flu shots at MCG. Do you have any information on what month the preponderance of the shots were administered?

Little Lamb
47986
Points
Little Lamb 01/12/13 - 10:29 am
2
0
Longevity

It is a hoot reading the suggestions offered up by Google searches on flu vaccine longevity. I love this FAQ from a site called "vaccines.gov" :

Q. How long is my flu vaccination good for?

A. The flu vaccine will protect you for one flu season.

Little Lamb
47986
Points
Little Lamb 01/12/13 - 11:35 am
0
0
Flu

I'm sorry you're sick with the flu, Willow. Rest, and get better. Also, thank you so much for responding to my E-mail the other day. I'm resolving to take action this year.

Fiat_Lux
16246
Points
Fiat_Lux 01/12/13 - 02:39 pm
1
0
MCG flu shot deadline

I believe we had to have them by 12/1/12, but perhaps a day earlier. People actually have been fired for not getting a shot and not having a doctor's waiver or a religious statement for missing it.

Willow Bailey
20603
Points
Willow Bailey 01/12/13 - 05:08 pm
0
0
LL, thank you.let me know if

LL, thank you.let me know if you discover something I might like.

Little Lamb
47986
Points
Little Lamb 01/12/13 - 09:04 pm
1
0
Flu Shot Timing

Thank you, Fiat. See? MCG had their employees take the flu shot in in November and December. That's the correct timing. The media and the drug stores were bombarding the airwaves and print media to get people to get the shot in August and September. The shot's immunity has worn off by the time the season gets going gangbusters.

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