Last Flu Season Was The Deadliest In Four Decades — CDC

Health officials working to make flu shot more effective

The Ohio Department of Health says the flu season is approaching quickly, and all Ohioans should get vaccinated before the end of October.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the flu, as well as flu-related complications, was responsible for 80,000 US deaths last winter.

Dr. William Schaffner, medical director for the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, said that those who get flu after receiving vaccine are less likely to require hospitalization and they're less likely to die.

Speaking at the same conference, Dr. Laura E. Riley, professor and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medicine, said that less than half of all pregnant women - 49% - received a flu shot previous year.

Flu activity usually begins to increase in October and can last as late as May. In the USA, peak flu season months are typically November through March.

Regardless of the myth that is so often heard at this time of the year, the flu vaccine doesn't cause those who take it to develop influenza.

It's especially important for people 65 and older (50 and older is recommended by the CDC) to get the flu shot, since their ability to fight the virus is lower.

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The number is thought to be the highest death toll for the flu since the winter of 1976-77. That strain tended to send people to the hospital and result in fatalities, particularly among those who are vulnerable, such as young children and the elderly. Dr. Sarah McIntire said more patients have had more questions earlier than usual this year.

Looking ahead to the coming winter months, Australia's flu season, which precedes that in the Northern Hemisphere nations, is often an indicator of what's to come in the US, Canada and across Europe.

US health officials on Thursday are scheduled to hold a media event in Washington, D.C., to stress the importance of vaccinations to protect against whatever flu circulates this coming winter.

The vaccine performed better against some strains than others.

"We don't know what's going to happen, but we're seeing more encouraging signs than we were early past year", Jernigan said.

"They are the best protection against flu we have available", said Ann Thomas, M.D., public health physician at the OHA Public Health Division. The AP is exclusively responsible for all content.

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