Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has announced that county health departments will begin offering flu vaccines statewide on Monday in preparation for the flu season.

Note: An in-depth look at how much help vaccinations offer as Fall ushers in flu season. Oklahoma reported 114 flu deaths last year –– most of them senior citizens.

Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has announced that county health departments will begin offering flu vaccines statewide on Monday in preparation for the flu season.

Seasonal flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It spreads between people and can cause mild to severe illness. In some cases, the flu can lead to death.

The OSDH reported two flu deaths in Pottawatomie County and one in Lincoln County during the last flu season.

Collectively, Lincoln, Pottawatomie and Seminole counties had 59 flu hospitalizations last time.

Of the 114 flu deaths reported in Oklahoma, 86 of them were seniors over age 65. In the same age group, there were 1,354 hospitalizations in the state as a result of flu. The total of Oklahoma flu-related hospitalizations numbered 2,299 for 2014-2015.

In the United States, flu season generally starts in October and tapers off around May. Seasonal flu activity usually peaks in January or February.

Each year approximately 5-20 percent of U.S. residents get the flu and each year it kills more than 36,000 people and hospitalizes 200,000 more, according to nih.gov. NIAID scientists worldwide are working together to find better ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat seasonal and pandemic influenza, including H1N1 flu.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends vaccination, stating, “Getting a flu vaccine can protect against flu viruses that are the same or related to the viruses in the vaccine.”

“We are learning more and more about the benefits of influenza vaccination every year,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline.

CDC conducts studies each year to determine how well the flu vaccine protects against flu illness. Recent studies show vaccine can reduce the risk of flu illness by about 50-60 percent among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are like the viruses the flu vaccine is designed to protect against.

Problem is, sometimes the vaccine doesn’t line up with what’s circulating.

How well the flu vaccine works (or its ability to prevent flu illness) can range widely from season to season. According to the CDC, at least two factors play an important role in determining the likelihood that flu vaccine will protect a person from flu illness: 1) characteristics of the person being vaccinated (such as their age and health), and 2) the similarity or “match” between the flu viruses the flu vaccine is designed to protect against and the flu viruses spreading in the community. During years when the flu vaccine is not well matched to circulating viruses, it’s possible that no benefit from flu vaccination may be observed.

Last season’s vaccine was reportedly only 19 percent effective.

Tony Sellars, OSDH director of communications, said, “The vaccine is expected to be a better match this year. We hope it will keep the numbers down.”

In general, the flu vaccine works best among healthy adults and older children. Some older people and people with certain chronic illnesses might develop less immunity after vaccination. However, even for these people, the flu vaccine still may provide some protection.

On Feb 26, 2015, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for the CDC voted on its annual influenza vaccine recommendations for 2015-2016. ACIP voted to continue to recommend that all persons 6 months and older be vaccinated annually against influenza. However ACIP did not renew the 2014-2015 preference for using the nasal spray flu vaccine (LAIV) instead of the flu shot (IIV) in healthy children 2 through 8 years of age when immediately available. The preferential recommendation was originally approved on June 25, 2014, after a review of data from several influenza seasons suggested that the nasal spray vaccine could offer better protection than the flu shot for children in this age group. The decision not to renew the preferential recommendation was made based on new data from more recent seasons which have not confirmed superior effectiveness of LAIV observed in earlier studies.

Despite the new data findings, the CDC cites there are still many reasons why people 65 and older should be vaccinated each year:

First, they are at high risk of getting seriously ill, being hospitalized and dying from the flu.

Second, while the effectiveness of the flu vaccine can be lower among older people, there are seasons when significant benefit can be observed in terms of averting illness that results in a doctor’s visit. Even if the vaccine provides less protection in older adults than it might in younger people, some protection is better than no protection at all, especially in this high-risk group.

Third, current CDC studies look at how well the vaccine works in preventing flu illness that results in a doctor’s visit or admission to a hospital. This is just one outcome. There are other studies that look at the effects of flu vaccination on hospitalization rates as well as looking at death as on outcome. For example, the CDC said one study concluded that one death was prevented for every 4,000 people vaccinated against the flu.

In addition to getting a flu vaccination, persons 65 years of age and older, and those with chronic health conditions, should ask their health care provider about being vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia. Pneumococcal pneumonia is a common and potentially serious complication of the flu.

Antiviral drugs are also an important second line of defense against the flu. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines that fight against the flu in your body. Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics, which fight against bacterial infections.

Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They also can prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia.

Most otherwise-healthy people who get the flu, however, do not need to be treated with antiviral drugs.

While how well the flu vaccine works can vary, the CDC said there are still many reasons everyone (who can) should get a flu vaccine each year:

• Flu vaccination can keep you from getting sick from flu.

• Protecting yourself from flu also protects the people around you who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness.

• Flu vaccination can help protect people who are at greater risk of getting seriously ill from flu, like the elderly, people with chronic health conditions, young children and infants.

• Flu vaccination also may make your illness milder if you do get sick.

• Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of more serious flu outcomes, like hospitalizations.

The CDC tracks flu activity in the United States year round and produces a weekly report of flu activity from October through mid-May.

The CDC FluView report for the 2015-2016 season resumes Oct. 16.

To stay up-to-date with the report, visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/usmap.htm.


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