Healthy Living: CDC says flu cases this year are double; get vaccinated

Flu season is here

Health officials warn of bad flu season this year, but still recommend the flu shot.

But flu viruses are constantly changing proteins on their surface to avoid being spotted, and the old technique is helping them.

Darryl Nelson, the chief medical officer for the HCA Midwest Health System, said the system's eight area hospitals have "just started in the last week or two to see a noticeable uptick" in patients with flu-like symptoms.

Two Flathead County residents have died from the flu, marking the states first influenza-related deaths this season, the Flathead City-County Health Department reported Wednesday.

And because most people who show flu symptoms don't go to the doctor and get tested, state epidemiologist Alfred DeMaria cautioned those numbers represent only a small portion of actual cases. The U.S. sees 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 to 56,000 deaths every year from the flu. Strain-specific vaccination can be hit-or-miss even though the WHO's Global Influenza Surveillance Network attempts to forecast which strains look to cause the most misery.

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Four states are reporting widespread outbreaks of the flu.

Though the vaccine may not be flawless, Zimmerman emphasized that it's still a good idea to get it to protect not only one's own health, but also the health of loved ones.

This year's flu vaccine may not be as helpful as in years past.

Meanwhile, the authors of NEJM report suggest a renewed effort to work toward better, more effective flu vaccines.

Since the beginning of October, 144 flu cases had been reported to the Brazos County Health Department through November 25, as well as 176 influenza-like illnesses. Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said getting a shot this year is crucial. According to the CDC, the best way *not* to get the flu, is to get vaccinated.

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Some infectious disease researchers are blaming the outdated methods for cultivating flu vaccines. The nasal spray vaccine that has been available in recent years is no longer considered effective and is not available.

Other ways to stay healthy that you may not think of include staying active and managing stress, which can help give your immune system a boost.

Although the flu vaccine is usually 40 percent to 60 percent effective, local doctors said the Australian example should not dissuade people from being vaccinated in this country.

"So given that, particularly for the H3N2 component, the vaccine effectiveness we're anticipating will be low", predicted Skowronski.

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