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The death of a 15 year old with influenza in North Carolina on January 5th hits home the seriousness of influenza in our community. This child, to my knowledge, had no underlying medical problems. While we are not sure what type influenza this child had, we do know that the youth had not had the flu vaccine this year.
Some 36,000 people die of the flu and 220,000 are hospitalized each year in the United States. In 2009-2010, 75% of the people who died of H1N1 influenza were younger than 65 years old. The majority were in their 30’s and 40’s. We know that approximately 1/3 of the children who died from H1N1 had no underlying medical problems.
The Center for Disease Control says everyone over the age of 6 months who wants to prevent the flu should take the influenza vaccine. It is especially important for high risk patients like pregnant women and those with chronic disease (for example diabetes, asthma, COPD, congestive heart failure, cancer) to get the flu vaccine. The vaccine this year is a good match covering influenza A strains H1N1, H3N2, and one strain of Influenza B. The vaccine should provide about 90% protection for the currently circulating flu viruses.
There are very few people (i.e. those who are allergic to eggs) who cannot take the flu vaccine. Speak with your physician. The injectable flu vaccine is NOT a live vaccine and CANNOT give you the flu. There is virtually no pain associated with taking the shot.
Flu season is underway and is considered “widespread” according to the North Carolina State Health Department. We will see more cases in January and the flu is expected to peak in February and continue on into May.
We have “free” flu shots available for anyone over the age of 18 at our office (Raleigh Urgent Care Center, PA at 2600 New Bern Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27610 – next to Wake Medical Center). If you have insurance, we will be happy to file it. If you don’t have insurance, we will provide you the vaccine for free as long as supplies are available. Simply print a copy of this medical blog and bring it to our office for a free flu shot.
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