Nasty flu strain targeting area in the coming weeks…

By on December 23, 2014

Think it’s too late to get the flu shot? The answer is an emphatic no, especially not that an outbreak is hitting the area with a vengeance.
According to Amy E. Walsh, senior media relations and communications specialist with WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital, there have been approximately 26 confirmed cases of the flu at the Northern Lancaster County Medical Group Practices.
And, she noted, there has been a steady increase in cases seen in the hospital’s emergency department.
In a Dec. 22 story, Lancasteronline.com reports that the flu season is hitting Pennsylvania earlier than usual and it’s an especially nasty strain of the flu.
Medical personnel expect cases of the flu to seriously increase through New Year’s Day and well into the first weeks of 2015.
According to Dr. John Goldman, an infectious disease specialist with the Pennsylvania Medical Society, the strain that is hitting the state is called H3N2. It is a more virulent and stronger strain of the flu, he told reporters during a Monday conference call.
Goldman also said this strain can be more deadly than others. In the Lancasteronline.com article, he noted that the national death rate is typically about 30,000, some three times higher than for other strains.
In fact, on Friday, a 17-year-old Glenmoore boy. Andrew R. Specht, died as the result of flu complications at Chester County Hospital.
And, there is also bad news about this year’s vaccine — the H3N2 strain changed after the vaccine was developed.
What that means is only 50 to 60 percent of people receiving this year’s vaccine might evade the flu. Generally, had the strain not changed, 70 to 80 percent of those who get flu shots are protected.
Still, Goldman and other medical professionals urge individuals to get flu shots.
The national death rate is usually about 30,000 &tstr; three times higher than for other strains &tstr; when this strain is prominent, he said. And on top of that, the vaccine is less effective this year because the H3N2 strain changed after it was developed.
In a typical season, the vaccine keeps 70 to 80 percent of people who get it from contracting the flu. This year it’s expected to be 50 to 60 percent, Goldman said, noting that it can reduce the severity of symptoms even for those who get sick despite being vaccinated.
He said it takes about two weeks for the flu shot to hit its full strength. Therefore, those who get it now still have a chance of being as protected as they can be when the season peaks, Lancasteronline.com reports.
Walsh offers these tips as well:
* It is not too late to get the flu shot.
* Stay home when sick.
* Practice good hand hygiene. Wash hands or use hand sanitizer frequently through the day, especially after shaking hands or touching surfaces that are more public in nature.
* Seek treatment quickly if you think you have the flu.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those most vulnerable to the flu are children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old; adults 65 years of age and older; pregnant women and women up to two weeks post partum; and Native Americans and Alaska natives.

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