The latest flu map from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows clear signs that the nation is beginning to put the peak of flu season behind it. Just a couple of weeks ago, the map was almost completely colored in red, the sign of the highest level of flu activity. Now, well over half of the states have at least somewhat lesser levels of flu.
Unfortunately, Texas isn’t one of them.
It will be a happy day when the entire map is swathed in green, the sign of low flu activity. But that time isn’t here yet and it is still important for people to guard against the disease that, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services, has killed more than 46,000 Texans during the past few months.
Texas was among the first few states to experience high disease activity this flu season, and it is among those that are now at the highest level. According to a recent NBC report, the state is now suffering a second wave of flu, with Type B becoming more dominant. The earlier dominant type was Type A.
What does all this mean? Most importantly, that people who haven’t been vaccinated should do so. Though health experts have hopes that Texas will soon see waning flu activity, the state isn’t there yet. In addition, flu season doesn’t always fade away in a smooth, predictable pattern. It can fall off, and then bump up again for a while. The Washington Post reports that public health officials expect the flu season to last into mid-April.
The newspaper reported that more than 110 children have died nationwide so far from the flu. And a new CDC study shows that in recent years, half of all pediatric flu deaths have been among previously healthy children.
Meanwhile, although the flu vaccine this year is not as effective as it has been in some recent years, it is far better at preventing the flu than many people had thought. That is especially true among children, for whom the vaccine has been 59 percent effective, according to recent CDC figures. That means it prevents the flu in more than half of children who would otherwise fall ill; in many others, it provokes enough immune response to result a less serious case of the disease. The CDC recommends that children older than 6 months be vaccinated.
In fact, if everyone who could be vaccinated had been, this might have been a very different-looking flu season. Not only would many of the vaccinated people have remained healthy, but community immunity would have kept many more from ever being exposed to the disease.
People can still make a difference by getting vaccinated and by having their children vaccinated. Perhaps the worst of it is over – barring a resurgence – but there will still be plenty of flu activity in the weeks ahead. How much illness can we prevent with a quick and simple shot? Let’s find out.
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