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Another Voice: This year's flu vaccine is the winning ticket

By Matthew Bartels

If you could play the lottery and know many of the winning numbers in advance, wouldn’t you go out of your way to get a ticket?

Well, the makers of this year’s flu vaccine had some inside information: They used global tracking and predictive reasoning to choose targeted strains of the flu for this year’s vaccine, and they nailed it!

Univera Healthcare’s review of data from the New York State Department of Health indicates that this year’s flu vaccine is the winning ticket, effectively targeting the strain that currently is sweeping the state.

Traditionally, fewer than half of upstate New York adults receive an annual flu vaccine. The health of our community hinges on increasing that percentage, especially this year, when the flu vaccine appears to be so effective.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the annual flu vaccine is designed to protect against three or four flu strains during a season that typically stretches from October to May.
Different flu strains can circulate at different times.

While this year’s vaccine looks to be a winner, we’re still on pace to have a doozy of a flu season. The number of confirmed cases in New York State (1,264 as of Dec. 10), is more than double the number of cases (459) reported at this point last year.

This year, doctors began seeing a trickle of flu patients during the first week of October. A modest spike occurred early in November. Cases rose precipitously during the first week in December, and more flu cases are reported each week.

The flu isn’t something to be taken lightly. Last year, from October to May, there were 49,000 confirmed cases of the flu and 9,000 flu-related hospitalizations in New York State.
One in nine children who got the flu was hospitalized, and one in two adults older than 65 who got the flu was admitted to the hospital.

While it’s never too late in the season to get the flu vaccine, the earlier you get it, the better, because it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to provide protection.

People with the flu are contagious beginning one day before they show symptoms, and remain so up to a week after becoming sick. Someone who has the flu can infect people as far as 6 feet away.

Statistics indicate that every 100 people who get the flu are likely to pass it on to 127 more people.

Don’t be one of those people who spreads it to others.

This year’s flu vaccine is very effective. Check with your doctor to confirm that everyone in your family age 6 months and older can take advantage of this “winning ticket.”

For more information on the flu, download a free Univera Healthcare infographic at tinyurl.com/gthgc7q.

Matthew Bartels, M.D., is Univera Healthcare chief medical officer for health care improvement.

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