Flu-related deaths higher than previously reported


According to new estimates published by World Health Organization, up-to 650,000 people die of respiratory diseases each year, and not up to 500,000, as it was believed until now.

Estep said flu cases sometimes start cropping up in November and December, but the kinds of numbers the area is now seeing normally don't happen until after the new year, if at all.

While there has been a lot of discussion about vaccine efficiency after an article from Australia reported only 10 percent effectiveness this year, there's more to the story than that, Lantrip said.

"The shot changes and the immunity wanes with time so you know people that get a flu shot in September by April May that shot is not as effective anymore", he said.

Influenza season typically runs from October through May, often peaking in February.

"There should be no fear around this", Winter said, who advised people to practice good hygiene to slow the spread of the infection.

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Based on these new estimates, adults over age 75 and people living in parts of sub-Saharan Africa are most at-risk of dying from the flu, the study said, and people living in the Eastern Mediterranean and Southeast Asia also face a high risk.

The CDC notes that the 10 percent figure is an Australian interim estimate of the vaccine's benefit against one flu virus - the H3N2 virus - that circulated in Australia during its most recent flu season. "Some regions see more flu A, which is common, some regions more flu B. Once in a while, you'll get a combination of A and B".

"From talking to the Urgent Care and the ER, they're starting to really see some, definitely some more flu a little earlier than what we normally would", said Freeman Health System physician Dennis Estep.

"Our ER director here at the hospital mentioned to me today that we've seen definitely in the last two weeks an increase in cases", said Christus St. Patrick's Infectious Disease Specialist, Dr. Timothy Haman.

Haman says if you have the flu or are already sick you shouldn't get the flu shot.

Public health officials and medical personnel alike said this week that the normal precautions they stress each year - getting flu shots, washing hands, sanitizing frequently touched surfaces - become even more important in years where there are more cases of the flu.