80,000 Deaths Caused By Flu Last Season, CDC Says

Health officials working to make flu shot more effective

The vaccine has been updated to reflect circulating strains that are prevalent in the southern hemisphere at this time during this hemisphere's winter season.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the flu, as well as flu-related complications, was responsible for 80,000 USA deaths last winter.

Last fall and winter, the USA went through one of the most severe flu seasons in recent memory.

The 2017-2018 season was driven by a flu strain, known as the H3N2 virus, which tends to put more people in the hospital and cause more deaths, particularly among young children and the elderly.

Speaking at the same conference, Dr. Laura E. Riley, professor and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medicine, said that less than half of all pregnant women - 49% - received a flu shot previous year.

Flu vaccines are offered by many doctor's offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies and college health centers, as well as by many employers and some schools.

This year, clinics are providing new vaccines made up of four strains and higher antigen doses.

Last year's vaccine was about 40 percent effective, which is on the low side for the vaccination.

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So last year's flu shot doesn't carry over to this season.

She said "kids are more likely to be immunized if their parents are" adding everyone 6 months and older should get a flu shot, which is the recommendation of the CDC.

It eclipses the estimates for every flu season going back to the winter of 1976-1977.

The makeup of the vaccine has been changed this year to try to better protect against expected strains.

Overall, the United States experienced one of the most severe flu seasons in recent decades. The tally was almost twice as great as what health officials previously considered a bad year, he said. CDC recommends that healthcare providers administer prescription antiviral medication as a second line of defense as soon as possible to patients with confirmed or suspected flu who are hospitalized, have severe illness, or may be at higher risk for flu complications.?

Even if a vaccine isn't a flawless match for the year's strains, she said, it's still a good idea to get the shot because the antibodies people produce as a result will protect against the circulating strains and similar ones.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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