Health Care

Vermont health officials say flu season could last several more months

What are flu symptoms and the different types, and how can I avoid it?

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, each year about 36,000 people die from flu.

A pressing matter is the shortage of antiviral medications in states with particularly severe outbreaks - despite the fact that there is more medication available for pharmacies than ever before, since many generic versions have been approved this year.

1,765 Flu hospitalizations so far this season.

The number of people stricken by flu continues to rise across the country, with 15,572 laboratory-confirmed cases for the season as of January 6, the Public Health Agency of Canada says.

Officials cautioned, however, that the flu is very unpredictable.

Compared to past year, ARC is reporting much higher rates of patients seeking flu tests and receiving positive results.

More than 300 have already been hospitalized throughout the state, this according to GDPH.

Though Northwestern University has not yet been heavily affected, the virus' prevalence is expected to increase as we move deeper into flu season.

The statistics came as a woman paid tribute to her daughter who died after battling flu at home. Kyler Baughman, a seemingly healthy 21-year-old man from Latrobe, died of flu-related complications December 28.

"We are now seeing a mix of flu types, including the A (H3N2) strain that circulated last winter in the United Kingdom and then in Australia". It's especially risky for children and the elderly.

Studies have shown that a well-matched vaccine can be 40 percent to 60 percent effective at reducing the risk to the overall population. While vaccine effectiveness is usually between 30 percent and 60 percent, the CDC stresses that "influenza vaccination is the most effective now available method to prevent influenza and its complications". "Getting vaccinated is not just about protecting yourself, it also protects people around you, including those who are more vulnerable, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions". Any protection is better than none.

In seasons when the predominant strain is H3N2, vaccine effectiveness tends to be lower than that against H1N1 and influenza B viruses, Jernigan said. The vaccine can also lessen the severity of illness in people who get sick. And while flu activity may be peaking, Jernigan warned there will still be several weeks of activity, which will likely see more infections caused by influenza B strains. "In a poorly matched year, lots of people will get the flu, even with the vaccine".