Middle-Aged Americans Hit Hardest By This Year’s Flu

Middle-Aged Americans Hit Hardest By This Year’s Flu

Weather forecasts this winter have brought plenty of bad news. Today brings similarly disappointing news on the flu front. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released their interim estimates for this year’s flu season, and those being hit the hardest aren’t who you’d expect.

Normally, flu most strongly affects those on the ends of the age spectrum: those under 4 years old and over 65. But so far in the 2013-2014 season, the greatest number of cases—and the greatest number of deaths from flu—fall into the young and middle-aged categories, the people often assumed to be the healthiest and heartiest. Some 61 percent of hospitalizations for influenza this season have been people between the ages of 18 and 64, up from 35 percent last season. The story is similar among deaths from flu: a surprising 60 percent occurred in the middle-age categories, up from last season’s 18 percent.

H1N1 Strikes Again

The trouble, it seems, is the particular strain of flu this season.

The predominant influenza virus circulating in recent months has been the notorious H1N1. Back in 2009, this virus (then called swine flu influenza A) made its presence quickly and painfully known. It started with a single case in a 10-year-old Californian girl, and spread from there. By June, cases had been reported in 70 countries and the World Health Organization declared the disease a pandemic. The U.S. was hit the hardest, with cases in all 50 of the United States and its territories.

While the H1N1 virus has been in circulation since then, this appears to be its first notable flare up. And in 2009, as in our current 2013-2014 season, a surprisingly large percentage of cases occurred in the young and middle-age categories.

Get Your Flu Shot!

With the help of vaccines, this year’s prospects don’t look nearly so grim. The CDC followed up with more than 2,000 people showing flu-like symptoms between December 2013 and January 2014, and found that the risk of influenza requiring a doctor’s visit was reduced in vaccinated individuals by about 61 percent versus those who didn’t get the vaccine.

Flu season isn’t over yet, though. The CDC anticipates weeks of influenza yet to come, and points out that it’s not too late to get a flu shot.

Source: discover magazine

Temporary Fever May Occur When Kids Under 2 Get 2 Shots at Once

Young children who receive flu and pneumococcal vaccines at the same time are at increased risk for temporary fever, a new study reports.

While parents should be told about this risk, the benefits of the vaccines outweigh the risks of fever, the researchers said.

The study included 530 children, aged 6 months to 23 months, who were followed for a week after receiving flu and pneumococcal vaccines either separately or at the same time. The annual flu shot is recommended for healthy people over 6 months of age, and the pneumococcal vaccine is recommended for children younger than 5 years old, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nearly 38 percent of the children who received the vaccines at the same time had a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher on the day of or the day after vaccination, compared with 9.5 percent of those who received the pneumococcal vaccine only and 7.5 percent of those who received the flu vaccine only, the investigators found.

For every 100 children, there were an additional 20 to 23 cases of temperatures of 100.4 F or higher in those who received the vaccines together, compared to those who received only one of the vaccines, the findings showed. There were also 15 additional cases per 100 of temperatures of 102.2 F or higher among children who were given the vaccines at the same time, compared to those who received the flu vaccine alone, but not compared to those who received the pneumococcal vaccine alone.

Rates of fever among the different groups of children did not differ in the two to seven days after vaccination, according to the study published online Jan. 6 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

“While our data suggest that giving children the influenza and pneumococcal vaccines together at the same visit increases the risk of fever, compared with getting only one of the vaccines at the visit, these findings should be viewed in context of the benefit of vaccines to prevent serious illness in young children, as well as the recognized need to increase vaccination rates overall,” study first author Dr. Melissa Stockwell, an assistant professor of pediatrics and population and family health at Columbia University, said in a university news release.

“Parents should be made aware that their child might develop a fever following simultaneous influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations, but that the benefits of these vaccines outweigh the risk of fever and, in most cases, the fever will be brief,” Stockwell said.

“For the small group of children who must avoid fever, these findings provide important information for clinicians and parents,” she added in the news release.

Study co-author Dr. Philip LaRussa, a professor of pediatrics at Columbia and specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia, pointed out that “these findings are a first step; the next step is to figure out if there are any measurable biological markers, such as findings in a blood sample, that are associated with increased risk of fever after vaccination.”

Source: web md

NYC requires flu shots for all daycare, preschool children

If your child wants to attend daycare or preschool in New York City, he or she will now be required to get a flu vaccine.

New York City’s Board of Health voted unanimously Wednesday to require all children under 5 attending one of these facilities to receive the vaccine before Dec. 31, right before flu season peaks.

Young children often pass influenza to other children and family members, who then spread the infection to others in the community. This mandate will help protect the health of young children, while reducing the spread of influenza in New York City,” the board said in an emailed statement.

City health officials told CBS News Tuesday they anticipate this effort would affect 150,000 children and, based on traditional vaccine effectiveness rates, prevent more than 20,000 cases of flu in young kids.

“A lot of people have a misconception that the flu is just like the common cold and nothing that needs to be worried about,” said Dr. Jay Varma, deputy commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “In fact, flu is common and can be very serious for children under the age of 5.”

In New York City, children of these ages are already required to receive common vaccines including the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), polio, pertussis (whooping cough), chickenpox and tetanus shots, so flu will just add one more shot to this list.

The rule will be enforced by the facilities, which may choose to exclude a child if he or she doesn’t get the vaccine. If the facility does not keep up to date vaccination records for its kids — as it’s required to do for all childhood vaccines — it could be subject to a fine.

Flu season typically begins as early as October, with the number of cases increasing dramatically by December and often peaking from January through March.

A flu season can range in severity, but children and the elderly are often most likely to be hospitalized or die from disease complications, even kids who were previously healthy.

Last year’s severe flu season killed at least 165 children. In the prior 10 seasons, between 43 and 153 kids died.

Since Dec. 31 is only weeks away, this mandate would not go into effect until next year’s 2014-2015 flu season.

Parent’s can only opt out of the flu vaccine if their child has medical reasons for not being able to take it, which are rare, or for religious exemptions. Philosophical exemptions, such as over vaccine concerns, are not allowed in New York State.

Children entering family daycare, which are held in people’s homes, won’t be subject to the requirement.

According to Varma, only New Jersey and Connecticut have similar requirements for flu vaccinations.

The new rule takes effect in 30 days, according to CBS New York.

“We feel strongly that we are doing something that’s always been done to protect the health of children,” he said.

Source: cbs news