CDC Issues Health Advisory, Urges Flu Vaccinations
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued an official health advisory due to the high frequency in the United States of the H3N2 virus, which in the past has led to higher overall hospitalization rates especially among older adults, very young children and people with certain chronic medical conditions.
Additionally, the CDC has noticed that more than half of the flu viruses collected and analyzed recently had “drifted” from the H3N2 virus, meaning that the most common vaccinations currently available will have decreased effectiveness. The CDC still urges though that current vaccines will offer some measure of protection. It is recommending the use of flu antiviral medications, which when administered early in noticing flu symptoms can reduce the flu’s power.
“If we have a severe season with H3N2, even without excellent protection it’s still the single best way to protect yourself,” said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden in a telebriefing Thursday, speaking of flu vaccines. “Antiviral medications are not a substitute for vaccination, which prevent the flu, but an important second line of defense.”
H3N2 flu strains tend to cause a more severe rate of hospitalization and when the strain dominates, the rate of death is twice as high, according to Frieden.
The CDC has not seen any shortage of vaccines available, he said, noting that nearly 150 million doses have been distributed. Frieden’s colleague at the CDC, Dr. Joseph Bresee, who works at the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said so far this flu season there have been five pediatric deaths due to the flu as well as outbreaks in schools and nursing homes.
“We continue to recommend the vaccine. Although far from perfect, it offers us the best chance of prevention,” Bresee said.