Flu season is around the corner, officials say | SteamboatToday.com

Flu season is around the corner, officials say

Teresa Ristow
This year's flu vaccination is expected to be more effective than the vaccine administered during the 2014-15 season, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
John F. Russell

Upcoming flu shot clinics:

Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association

9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, from Oct. 1 until further notice

Steamboat Springs High School

4 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, Oct. 6 to 27

Clark Store

4:30 to 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 7

Hayden Town Hall

3 to 6 p.m., Tuesday Oct. 13

South Routt Elementary

3:30 to 6 p.m., Wednesday Oct. 14

Soda Creek Elementary

2:30 to 5 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 21

All clinics are all ages. Please bring Medicaid, Medicare or other insurance card. Low-cost immunizations available for uninsured adults. Cash or checks accepted.

More information: 970-871-7624

— It’s now officially fall, and with the turning of the leaves comes the start of another flu season in Northwest Colorado.

Flu vaccinations are now available from the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, at some local pharmacies and at primary care offices.

This year’s vaccine is expected to be more effective than last year’s shot, which didn’t protect against the newest strain of H3N2 influenza and therefore only had about a 13 percent effectiveness rate against the strain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Typical flu vaccinations have an estimated 50 to 60 percent protection rate, meaning they are expected to stop the flu from effecting about 50 to 60 percent of people who get the shot and are exposed to the virus.

The 2015-16 flu season vaccine strain composition was announced in February. The trivalent vaccine will protect against an A-strain H1N1-like virus, a B-Yamagata lineage virus and an A-strain Switzerland variant H3N2 virus, the latter of which was most prevalent during the 2014-15 flu season. The quadrivalent vaccine will contain the trivalent viruses and a B-strain Victoria-lineage virus part of quadrivalent vaccines in 2014-14 and 2014-15 flu seasons.

“The 2014-15 Influenza vaccine for H3N2 was not a good match. This year’s H3N2 strain in the vaccine appears to be a better match,” said Janice Poirot, a public health nurse with the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.

Poirot’s observations are in line with information presented during a press briefing that took place on Sept. 17 about the upcoming flu season that included a presentation by Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Frieden said that the Switzerland variant H3N2 strain is part of this year’s vaccine and early indicators suggest the vaccine will be more successful overall this year.

According to Frieden, about half of the U.S. population was vaccinated last year, including 89 percent of doctors and nurses and 95 percent of pharmacists.

The vaccine is recommended for everyone in the United States older than 6 months.

While the vaccine didn’t protect against all strains of the flu last year, the vaccine should still be considered successful, according to Dr. Brian Harrington, a family physician with Yampa Valley Medical Associates.

“I would still consider last year a success in that it prevented a lot of people from getting the flu, and those that did get the flu were not as likely to get as sick,” Harrington said. “The flu vaccine covers multiple strains, and while we may get a strain that rises up and the vaccine isn’t perfect, the flu vaccine is never worthless. It’s always worthwhile.”

Harrington said that immunizations have been administered at Yampa Valley Medical Associates for the past few weeks and he expects that the start of flu season is coming quickly.

“We’re probably start seeing reported cases in the month ahead,” Harrington said. “The time to get vaccinated is now.”

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

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