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Flu virus lingers longer than normal this year, cases spike

(Flickr Photo/PAHO)

There’s another record to add to this month’s list of records being set.

“We had to 230 cases of influenza this week, compared to seven cases last year,” said Jessica Rigler, the branch chief of public health preparedness for the Arizona Department of Health Services.

This year’s flu was not like ones of years past. The infection rate didn’t spike in February or March, but the strain has hung-on, lingering longer than most years and therefore infecting more people and causing record numbers of people who’ve come down with the flu.

With the high exposure rate this late in the year, Rigler reminds people of the simple things to avoid catching the flu.

“Make sure you’re washing your hands,” she said. “Because you don’t want to be the one to pick it up and take it home to your family. And of course, stay home when you’re sick.”

The latest flu vaccine is described as under-performing, at best. Many elderly people have come down with it, despite being vaccinated.

Rigler says a committee comes together to determine which viral strains will be predominant for the coming year and a vaccine is created to directly respond to it. The problem is when another strain actually proliferates.

“Flu vaccine effectiveness can vary from year-to-year,” Rigler says. “Even when flu vaccine effectiveness is low, it still does prevent severe cases of flu, including hospitalization and death. So it’s better to have some degree of protection here than to have no degree of protection.”

According to Rigler, many Americans will feel they’ve had influenza, when in fact all they had was a common cold. She says when you have the flu — you’ll know it: “You feel like you’ve been hit by a truck. It’s serious, you are down, you can’t go to work, and you’re not going to be up cooking dinner, you’re not going to be with your family. It’s the kind of disease that has you in your bed with sweats and chills and significant fever and respirator issues.”

Taking a look at the coming flu season and the vaccine being prepared by the Center for Disease Control and other health agencies, Rigler reports the vaccine will protect against a number of strains, including the Influenza-A H1N1, Influenza-A H3N2, Influenza-B, Victoria Lineage and Influenza-B, Yamagata Lineage.

Rigler believes in getting inoculated from influenza, regardless if the vaccine hits the mark or isn’t. She says a vaccine that is 50 percent effective is successful in keeping 50 percent of people from being hospitalized with the flu.

“It’s always important to get your flu vaccine because it can protect you — especially when summer flu is circulating.”

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