Influenza: 80,000 people died from flu last season according to CDC estimates

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It is also recommended that friends, family members and people who provide care to people in these groups also get a vaccine - not only to protect themselves but also to decrease the possibility that they might expose the people they love and care for to the flu.

Vaccination among pregnant women remains low, with only about half of women receiving the vaccine, said Laura E. Riley, MD, the Given Foundation professor and chair in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City. The 1918 flu pandemic, which lasted almost two years, killed more than 500,000 Americans, historians estimate.

Statistics released from the Washoe County Health District 2017-18 Influenza Surveillance Report show that out of 5,521 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases in Washoe County last flu season, 542 (10%) people were hospitalized (88 in ICU), and 26 people died. The flu vaccine is safe and does not cause the flu. Cases increased in November and peaked in January and February.

It's the most detailed picture of the devastating reach of the respiratory virus, which sickened millions of people as overwhelmed hospitals pitched tents to treat patients.

Officials determine the composition of the vaccine each year.

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Officials noted flu vaccine is available at numerous places, including drugstores, grocery stores and at many workplaces. The tally was almost twice as much as what health officials previously considered a bad year, he said. A 2017 CDC study demonstrated that the influenza vaccine "reduced the risk of flu-associated death by half (51 percent) among children with underlying high-risk medical conditions and by almost two-thirds (65 percent) among healthy children". The Department of Health is reporting almost 400 flu-related deaths in North Carolina a year ago. The vaccine promotes antibody protection within two weeks. "It is critical that we focus national attention on the importance of influenza vaccination to protect as many people as possible every season".

Officials stress that children need to be vaccinated as well as adults.

"More than 40 percent of kids were not vaccinated against the flu, seeing a decline in coverage in this age group is very very worrisome", Adams said.

It's nearly becoming a game of "whack a mole" when it comes to flu season. The 1918 flu pandemic killed an estimated 675,000 Americans and sickened one third of the world's population.

The vaccine strain alters year to year to ensure it protects against each season's unique disease, he said, and this year's version has two changes that should help reduce the morbidity and mortality rates of the flu. Children born to immunized mothers have a 72 percent reduction in their rate of flu infection in the first few months of life.

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The vaccine is free and is given as a nasal spray rather than an injection.

These more robust vaccines are more likely to produce side effects, including pain, redness or swelling, headache, muscle ache and malaise, according to the CDC. While most health insurance plans cover the cost of flu vaccines, costs at pharmacies shouldn't be more than $25 or $35, Haupt said.

"I would get the vaccine now and you don't have to worry about whether it's a mild or a severe season", said William Schaffner, NFID medical director.

Older adults and those with certain chronic health conditions, including heart and lung disease, diabetes and obesity, are also at high risk of serious flu complications.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

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