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Flu season soars in the United States, especially in the south

Influenza is a contagious viral disease that causes mild to severe symptoms that, in rare cases, can lead to death. Five children died and another 566 hospitalizations related to influenza occurred as of November 25.

"The flu is increasing, and we are seeing a fairly steep increase in influenza activity in the US, especially in the south," said Brendan Flannery, co-author of the new report and epidemiologist in the influenza division of the CDC.

Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts and Oklahoma reported widespread activity during the week ending November 25, according to the report.

"We recommend that, for everyone 6 months and older, if you have not received your vaccine yet, this is the time to get it," said Shannon Stokley, associate director of sciences in CDC's immunization services division. .

Despite this orientation, less than half of Americans have received a jab this season. Common concerns focus on the effectiveness of the vaccine and the side effects.

Low-tech prevention

"Among the general population, approximately 39% have received the vaccine," said Stokley, co-author of a new CDC report that surveyed people by telephone and Internet at the beginning of November.

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Experts believe that the flu virus is transmitted when a sick person speaks, sneezes or coughs. Common symptoms include cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, fever and chills, muscle and body aches, headaches and fatigue. Most people recover in less than two weeks.

However, as noted by Dr. Tanya Altmann, a pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, the flu has potentially serious complications, such as pneumonia, bronchitis and sinusitis, and ear infections.

"Anything you can" help prevent your family from getting the flu is very beneficial, "said Altmann, who was not involved in the CDC investigation, and his advice includes the CDC's recommendation to get a flu shot, But it also adheres to low-tech contagious disease prevention techniques: "good hand-washing techniques, teaching children not to share their germs, staying home when you're sick and disinfecting" common surfaces, "he said.

Babies and pregnant women, particularly those in the second and third trimesters, are more vulnerable to developing complications, according to the CDC.

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"We have some evidence of that the vaccine protects the woman from the flu itself, and can protect the baby in the six months of life from the flu before we can vaccinate the baby, "Flannery said. Both the CDC and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend a flu vaccine for all women who are or are pregnant during the flu season.

Many future mothers, however, have not followed this advice.

Do pregnant women receive "appropriate" care?

Only one third of pregnant women were vaccinated against the flu, although the overwhelming majority of them visited a health care provider at least once, according to another new CDC analysis. data collected from an Internet survey conducted during the first week of November.

More than a quarter of pregnant women reported that medical personnel did not recommend or offer the flu vaccine.

"It saddens me a little that people across the country, especially pregnant women, do not receive the recommended and appropriate medical care," Altmann said.

Coverage was higher for pregnant women whose doctors recommended and offered the vaccine: just over half of the women in this category had received a vaccine.

Side Effects and Vaccine Effectiveness

The CDC (which lists sore or inflamed arms, hoarseness, sore eyes, cough, fever and pains among the most common side effects) points out that these effects "are generally mild and go away on their own". Extremely rare severe allergic reactions can also occur, according to the CDC.

Among the health workers who rejected the vaccine, the most common reason is the fear of experiencing side effects or getting sick with the vaccine.

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[19659011] Not everyone agrees that the flu vaccine is one of the best ways to protect families and prevent serious complications, including Dr. Erika Schwartz, an internist and founder of a medical practice in New York City which focuses on wellness and disease prevention.

Schwartz, who was not involved in the CDC reports, said some of his patients were vaccinated against the flu, but others did not.

"Some patients believe that possible side effects outweigh the positive aspects they get from prevention," he said. Some patients believe they can protect themselves by boosting their immune system, eat well and make sure they sleep better, he said.

"Everyone's risk is different," Schwartz said. Flannery said the most at risk patients are the elderly, pregnant women and babies, and people with underlying conditions, such as lung or heart conditions.

And the vaccine is not a guarantee of protection. The effectiveness of last year's flu vaccine was only 42%, the CDC estimated this year, while preliminary estimates published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggest that this year's vaccine could be only 10% effective.

Flannery explained that the article in the magazine The most recent influenza season in Australia and highlights the low effectiveness of the vaccine against a type of influenza: the strain H3N2 that prevails today in the United States. The authors of the article also noted that "the vaccine prevented about a third of all diseases from all types of influenza," Flannery said. "There is still some protection against all influenza illnesses in Australia last season.

" We see a predominance of the H3N2 virus that was common last season, "said Flannery. The H3N2 stations have been more severe in terms of hospitalization and death. , especially in the elderly and young children; that's a concern. "

Dr. William Schaffner, a specialist in infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, said the effectiveness of the vaccine is not a simple measure.

" When we measure the effectiveness of the vaccine, that's effective against protecting against the disease completely, "said Schaffner, who was not involved in the CDC's research, although he is a liaison representative of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which develops recommendations on the use of vaccines for the CDC.

"What is not measured is that, even if you get the flu despite the vaccine, your flu case is likely to be milder; you are less likely to have the complications of pneumonia, to have to be hospitalized and die, "he said.

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