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Mayo Clinic specialist predicts worst flu season in 30 years

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

Posted on Tue, Nov. 25, 2003
Associated Press

This could be one of the worst flu seasons in 30 years, with thousands more people dying than in a normal year because they failed to get vaccinated, according to the director of the Mayo Clinic Vaccine Research Group.

"This will probably be the worst flu season we've had in several decades," said infectious disease specialist Dr. Gregory Poland. "My guess is that we'll be in the 50,000 to 70,000 deaths this year due to this strain."

In an average year, the disease infects up to 20 percent of the U.S. population, killing about 36,000 Americans and hospitalizing 114,000, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The state Health Department reports that since 1997 an average of 1,156 people in Minnesota have died of flu or pneumonia each year. As of Tuesday, there had been one confirmed case in the state this season, a spokesman said.

Medicine designers in the United States decide which strains of flu to include in the vaccine based on what happens in other parts of the world. They select the prevalent strains and create a vaccine to protect against them several months before the U.S. flu season.

This year, there was "drift" in one of the three strains included: H3n2a. "What that means is the virus has mutated from a strain that we isolated in March and February," he said.

So the vaccine will protect against the other two strains, and partially against the currently circulating H3n2a, or Fujian strain. Getting a flu vaccination, Poland said, "cuts your chance of dying this year - from any cause (flu strains) - by 50 percent."

Health Department spokesman Doug Schultz said that since the 1976-77 season, there have been nine flu seasons when there was strain circulating that was not covered by that year's vaccine. This season is one of them, he said.

He said the Health Department is also expecting an unusually severe flu season, but has not quantified the severity as Poland had. Doctors at the CDC have also said they are preparing for an usually harsh season.

If people don't get vaccinated but get symptoms, medical attention within 24 hours allows anti-viral medications to prevent or decrease illness.

Young children, caretakers of children and health-care workers are urged to get vaccinated, Poland said.

It takes just 10 to 14 days to produce immunity with vaccine. People still can get vaccinated, Poland said.

So far this season, the outbreaks were strongest in Texas and Colorado in October and early November. Most of the country has had only sporadic flu infections.

This is the season for the virus to spread. Poland said there are people coming to his house in Rochester this year from four other parts of the world, a virus-spreading scene repeated across the nation.
post #2 of 14
We know all about that already here in Colorado. There have already been something like 1500 confirmed cases. Schools have completely shut down because up to 30% of the kids were out with the flu.

My supervisor had/has it, and it is nasty! She's been sick for going on three weeks.
post #3 of 14

Came down with it two weeks ago...right as I was leaving for vacation.

still feeling icky.
post #4 of 14
Thread Starter 
Yep, the article does mention that Colorado and Texas have already had a lot flu cases.

I work at a nursing home, and I think that's why the article caught my attention. A lot of elderly people have suppressed immune systems which makes the flu especially dangerous for them.
post #5 of 14
My kids get the flu vaccine each year because my oldest has asthma. I've never been vaccinated, and neither has David. Maybe this year though I will after reading that.
post #6 of 14
In Toronto, the health officials are urging everyone to get a flu shot because of the recent SARS crisis.

Since SARS symptoms can be similar to the flu, the medical community is worried that people who might get SARS will just think it is the flu and not go to the hospital. Or, that people who have the flu, will think it is SARS and will fill the emergency wards unnecessarily.

It's a scary time when you don't know whether you have the flu or SARS!

post #7 of 14
post #8 of 14
The vaccine has always worked really well for me - I usually get it b/c I have athsma, but missed it this year. And so of course I got the flu this year - haven't caught it any year I've been vaccinated.
post #9 of 14
I got a flu shot at the end of October. I wouldn't want to go a year without one.
post #10 of 14
All four of us got hit. Me first two and a half weeks ago, my mother at the same time, then last week, my dad and Grandmother. It was terrible for the first week. We all had low fevers, muscle aches, the chills, bad nasal congestion, and a nasty long-lasting cough. Now we are all waiting for the last of the cough and mild nasal congestion to completely clear up. Fun fun, NOT!!

I feel that children are dying from this. It doesn't seem right in our medically advanced nation.
post #11 of 14
Thank goodness I got the flu vaccine this year. My office was giving away free flu shots, and I went and got one.
post #12 of 14
I never get a flu shot, but sounds like maybe I should! Thank goodness they were offering flu shots for babies this year, they said they normally don't give them to children as young as Amber, but this year they are, so she had her first shot a month ago and goes in on the 4th for her second one. (she has to have 2)
post #13 of 14
Hey, I work for the Mayo Clinic!

I'm surprised I didn't get an email about this. I work in an ER and although they were giving flu shots to any employee who wanted one, I felt it was not in my best interest to get one. I'm a healthy 23 year old and have an issue with yearly "vaccinations". It's bad enough I have to get a TB skin test each year! I'll have to reconsider after reading this, especially since I'm in contact with a lot of sick people every day.

Thanks for posting it.
post #14 of 14
I feel like complete crap today. My whole body is sore, I have a sore throat, headache.. no energy whatsoever. Why am I at work??!
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