FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) In the second week of April, the flu season still lingers. “Unfortunately, this has been a very challenging influenza season. First of all, it has just drug out for weeks and weeks and weeks which is pretty unusual for us,” Deborah McMahan, Allen County Health Commissioner, said.
And, the big reason, an increased number of deaths. Going up from 18 last year, to the most in Indiana. “We are investigating 26 deaths from influenza so far this year,” she said.
The health department pushed flu shots heavily. But some of the 26 people were vaccinated. “As you get older, unfortunately you’re not able to get the same sort of antibody and a good protective response from a vaccine.”
She suspected more people got vaccinated this year, through talking with doctors and pharmacists. But we won’t know those official numbers for at least six months. “Because they are provided at so many convenient locations anymore. But usually the CDC comes out with a number of the percentage of the community or the country that’s been vaccinated. I think they probably base that on pharmaceutical sales.”
McMahan thinks when the numbers are looked at this summer, there could be some changes. Including possibly getting two flu shots, or a higher dose. “Because this strain, this H3N2, is so virulent and that it will probably be around for the next three to five years, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see recommendations for flu vaccination change.”
Also this year, reports showed the vaccine was only 10 to 30 percent effective. “It’s because they think there was some mutation in this particular strain of virus influenza a H3N2 after the vaccine had been made.”
Statewide, It wasn’t just elderly or younger children, 17 of the people were age 25 to 49. McMahan said there’s a lot to look at, and more to come. “For the next three to five years I think we need to be prepared for really challenging flu seasons.”
There’s no official end date to flu season but McMahan said it’s usually gone by June.