The flu season in Alaska appears to be mild so far, but Alaska's Chief Medical Officer warns that cases could peak later this winter.
This year’s flu season is off to a mild start, though there was an uptick of cases reported nationwide and in Alaska during the last two weeks of the year.
Dr. Jay Butler is Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer.
“It’s not been a terrible year for flu,” Butler said. “We began to see an increase in influenza-like illness in October. Now, at the same time, there are other respiratory viruses that are circulating, so there’s no lack of coughs out in the community. But, so far it’s been fairly mild for influenza.”
For the past two seasons, the flu vaccine has not proven as effective as health officials would like, but Dr. Butler said this year’s seems to be doing a better job:
“The vaccine has a good match this year with the isolates that have been obtained in the United States so we’re much more optimistic that we’ll have a good vaccine effectiveness this year,” Butler said.
Last year’s flu peaked late in the U.S., including in Alaska, with the highest number of cases reported in March and early April.
Dr. Butler said it’s not too late to get vaccinated this season:
“Because of the remote location, sometimes influenza can reach our villages a little later than other parts of Alaska or the Lower 48,” Butler said. “So it’s important to keep in mind that sometimes, flu activity doesn’t peak until fairly late in the winter.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends everyone over the age of 6 months get a flu shot.
The nasal spray flu vaccine used last year is no longer recommended; the nasal vaccine ended up offering no protection for children aged two to 17 years old, though the CDC said it’s not yet sure why.
Each year millions of Americans catch the flu, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, and thousands will die from it.
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