Flu vaccinations still available; health department urges residents to get vaccinated


Others question the vaccine's effectiveness. The CDC also reports that this flu season has not peaked yet, and the worst is still to come. But experts have wondered whether low vaccine effectiveness is another reason for the surprisingly severe season hitting the United States this winter.

They also can visit the Flu Vaccine Finder at www.flu.gov, run by the Centers for Disease Control.

That means the person might have had an underlying illness, such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, that could have been worsened by the flu. That number will likely rise as more data becomes available.

Methuen Superintendent of Schools Judith Scannell said her district is similarly attempting to stay ahead of the flu by doing thorough cleanings of school buildings at night and particularly on weekends. Kemi Mugangala, a digital media production major at Drake, is not going to get a flu shot this year.

"Any type of vaccine is better than none", said Scott Hensley, a University of Pennsylvania microbiologist who has led studies that raised critical questions about the vaccine. This is because baby boomers were not previously exposed to the H3N2 strain as children, it is an irregular strain of flu, and as a whole, baby boomers don't get vaccinated as frequently as other demographics.

This year's influenza is made up of the most unsafe of the four strands, H3N2.

Based on current trends, the number of child deaths could exceed the 148 reported for the especially severe 2014-2015 season, when the same strain was dominant and the vaccine's poor match resulted in overall effectiveness of 19 percent.

People who have the flu should stay home. Of those deaths, 10 were 65 years or older, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Tennessee reports there have been six children and one pregnant woman who have died of flu-related illness.

"I wish that there were better news this week, but nearly everything we're looking at is bad news", said Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We look at it all kinds of ways and different survey systems", she said. There are hundreds of viruses that can cause flu-like symptoms. Flu vaccines usually work better against H1N1 viruses, which are also circulating.

While instances of students coming down with the flu or flu-like symptoms have been reported in schools across the region, officials say the outbreak has had varying impacts on attendance rates.

Research has shown that a mutation in the H3N2 strain of the virus, which did not show up in the mass-produced vaccine that is grown using eggs, is the reason why the vaccine offered little protection last season. No appointments are needed to receive a flu shot during this event.