Influenza Deaths Climb; H3N2 taking toll on elderly

Providence: Thirteen people, most of them in their 80s and 90s, have died from influenza this season, many since the arrival of the H3N2 strain of flu in late March. Rhode Island is also seeing cases of Type B strains recently. There have been 392 hospitalizations, with 40 of those occuring in the last week with a spike in influenza activity, as part of a the late season second wave of influenza disease. “Thirteen Rhode Islanders have died from influenza this season, and the number of hospitalizations due to influenza has increased, with much of the activity occurring in the last month.” HEALTH Director Michael Fine, MD said. “Anyone not yet vaccinated should be vaccinated now.” This year’s flu vaccine immunizes against both H1N1, the season’s dominant flu strain, as well as H3N2 and B, this season’s late season strain. Many of the elderly who have died had been vaccinated this year. But influenza vaccines are less effective in the elderly, making older people more vulnerable to catching influenza from someone younger who has not been vaccinated. HEALTH recommends that everyone older than six months be vaccinated every year. It is especially important for children younger than five years of age (children younger than two years of age in particular), healthcare workers, pregnant women, senior citizens, and people with chronic conditions to be vaccinated.
There is still plenty of influenza vaccine remaining in Rhode Island.
More than half a million doses of influenza vaccine have been administered in Rhode Island this flu season, a slight increase over last year and an increase of more than 8% over two years ago.
The influenza strain that hit Rhode Island first this year was H1N1, which affects children and young adults more than people in other age groups. The second wave, arriving in late March, has taken a greater toll on the elderly population.
For more information, about the influenza and the influenza vaccine contact the HEALTH Information Line: 401-222-5960 / RI Relay 711.

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