INDIANAPOLIS—The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced last week that this season’s flu vaccine is less effective than previously reported—showing 56 percent overall effectiveness for children and adults up to age 64 and only 9 percent effectiveness for adults 65 and older. Sixty-one flu-related deaths have now been reported in Indiana, the vast majority of them individuals 65 and older, according to the latest weekly influenza report from the Indiana State Department of Health.
“We know the flu vaccine will not prevent all flu and it’s not perfect, but it is still the best defense we have for preventing flu,” said State Health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D. “The new information about the effectiveness of this season’s flu vaccine might seem discouraging, but it’s important to note that getting the flu vaccine can significantly reduce hospitalizations and deaths, even if it doesn’t protect from flu in all cases. This is especially critical for those 65 and older, for whom influenza can be a very serious disease.”
Overall, the CDC estimates that 90 percent of flu-related deaths occur in individuals 65 and older due to human defenses becoming weaker with age. Individuals in this age group are urged to seek treatment quickly if they develop flu symptoms including cough, fever, sore throat, and body aches. To help protect older community members, State health officials recommend that all individuals older than 6 months of age get vaccinated.
“The concept of ‘cocooning’ is useful with many vaccines, including influenza,” said Dr. VanNess. “Cocooning means that everyone in the family would be vaccinated to help prevent the disease, in this case flu, from getting into the home. This helps protect more vulnerable family members like parents, grandparents and immunocompromised individuals from getting sick.”
The effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies by season. In the past, CDC has measured significant benefits of getting the flu vaccine among people 65 and older in terms of preventing infection.
Flu season generally runs from October through May. A flu vaccine locator can be found at www.StateHealth.in.gov. Flu vaccine can usually be found at local health departments, pharmacies and with health care providers.
Flu vaccination is recommended for anyone six months of age or older. It is especially important for those at higher risk of complications related to the flu, to get vaccinated. High risk individuals include pregnant women, young children, people with chronic illnesses and/or compromised immune systems and the elderly. Because the vaccine can be less effective for people 65 and older, it is especially important for others to get vaccinated to help prevent the spread of flu to individuals in that age group.
Thorough and frequent hand washing, covering your cough with a tissue or your sleeve and staying home when you are sick, can all help reduce the spread of the flu.
To read the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, visit http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/mmwr_wk/wk_cvol.html
For more information about Indiana’s 2012-2013 influenza season, visit the Indiana State Department of Health at www.StateHealth.in.gov