This Oakland child received a nasal spray flu vaccine at a clinic in Oakland. (James Tensuan/KQED)
By Rob Stein, NPR
As expected, this year’s flu vaccine looks like it’s pretty much of a dud.
The vaccine only appears to cut the chances that someone will end up sick with the flu by 23 percent, according to the first estimate of the vaccine’s effectiveness by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC had predicted this year’s vaccine wouldn’t work very well because the main strain of the flu virus that’s circulating this year, known as an H3N2 virus, mutated slightly after the vaccine was created. That enables the virus to evade the immune system response created by getting vaccinated. Continue reading
KQED News social media editor Olivia Allen-Price gets her flu shot. (Lisa Pickoff-White/KQED)
By Tara Haelle, NPR
Brace yourselves: Flu season is coming. And along with the coughing, fevers and aches you can expect a lot of unreliable or downright wrong information about the flu vaccine.
Flu kills more people in a year in the U.S. than Ebola has killed in the history of the world.
Many people underestimate the health risks from flu. Thousands of Americans die from flu-related complications in a typical year, and last season’s H1N1 strain hit young adults particularly hard.
Flu and pneumonia combined consistently rank among the top 10 causes of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was ranked eighth in 2011, the most recent year for which data are available. Continue reading
The states colored brown in this map from the Centers for Disease Control shows where flu activity is widespread. You see that California is currently seeing “regional” activity.
(Centers for Disease Control)
If you’re worried about contracting the flu, the CDC says that an annual flu vaccine “is the best way to reduce the chances that you will get seasonal flu and lessen the chance that you will spread it to others.” The CDC recommends everyone over age 6 months go ahead and get the shot. Today in a release, Dr. Ron Chapman of the California Department of Public Health also urged Californians to be vaccinated. Continue reading
Goal is patient protection; unvaccinated workers may have to wear masks around patients
By Katharine Mieszkowski, The Bay Citizen
(USACE Europe District/Flickr)
In an effort to prevent health care workers from spreading the flu to patients this winter, county health officials are mandating that medical staff around the Bay Area receive vaccinations or wear a surgical mask on the job.
Health officials say flu vaccination rates among health care workers are dangerously low – 60 percent [PDF] of those working in California hospitals received the vaccine in the 2010-11 flu season, according to the most recent data available from the California Department of Public Health.
Officials hope the requirements will help prevent the spread of the virus to patients most vulnerable to its life-threatening complications, particularly the elderly, whose weakening immune systems may render the flu vaccine less effective.
However, county health officers say they have few resources to enforce the new orders, leaving it up to the discretion of hospitals, nursing homes, dialysis centers and other health care facilities to make sure their staffs are vaccinated.
Nationally, this year’s flu season has started early and may be shaping up to be a bad one, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among those locally requiring vaccination or masks this year are health officials in San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara and Sonoma counties. Scattered counties around the state are doing the same. Continue reading