Reports that the H3N2 influenza vaccine is not as effective as hoped this year are not true, said Tazewell County Health Department Director of Clinical Services Angie Phillips.
“There are some sources that are saying it is a 10 percent rate of effectiveness this year, but that number actually comes from preliminary estimates that were done in Australia for their most recent flu season,” said Phillips. “It is too early to predict that we are going to see something similar here.
“Those numbers won’t really become available for several months, after the data can be studied. After we know the flu season is over then we can start to study those numbers and get an accurate representation of how effective it was.”
Phillips is urging people who have not been vaccinated to do so now. It is not too late. The shot takes two weeks for the recipient to develop the antibodies to fight the influenza, so the sooner the vaccine is administered the better, said Phillips.
“There’s no predicting when this will stop, and we haven’t seen our numbers drop in the last couple of weeks,” said Phillips. “We don’t know how long this high-rate of infection is going to sustain.”
H3N2 is an influenza A virus, which causes more severe symptoms. As of Friday, there have been 223 lab confirmed cases of H3N2 reported by UnityPoint Health-Pekin and Hopedale Medical Center — Tazewell County’s two hospitals. That figure does not include cases being treated by local physicians, said Phillips.
Tazewell County and the rest of the state of Illinois are keeping pace with the rest of the nation — widespread infection, according to the Center for Disease Control website.
Phillips said people need to understand that influenza is respiratory virus — NOT the stomach flu. It is much more dangerous that the stomach flu, especially to the very young, elderly and people with chronic illnesses. The most severe symptoms are fever, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, confusion and chest pain. People should consider going to the hospital if experiencing those symptoms.
People with less severe symptoms can treat the virus at home and get antiviral medications from their doctor, but the medication should be started in the first two days of infection to be effective, said Phillips. She said to stay hydrated, use Tylenol or Ibuprofen type medications for aches and headache pain and get plenty of rest. The virus is contagious until the patient has been without a fever for 24 hours, said Phillips. The best advice is to stay home if infected with the flu so as not to spread it.
Walgreens Pharmacist Ben Frietsch said the store on Court Street has given approximately 1,800 influenza shots so far this flu season. Right now, they are averaging two to three shots a day. The pharmacy will has plenty of vaccine — there is no shortage.
“At this point, I’m seeing an influx — a lot more coming in,” he said.
Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin