Dr. Richard Webby of St. Jude still advocates for everyone to get the flu shot— it’s not too late
MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its most recent Influenza Activity Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, indicating that flu activity increased in late December and has remained elevated through February. Even with elevated levels of activity through the beginning of February, this year’s flu season has been categorized to date as a “low-severity influenza season.”
The CDC estimates influenza-associated infections have caused between13 and 15 million illnesses, between 6 million and 7.2 million medical visits, 155,000-186,000 hospitalizations, and 9,600 – 15,900 deaths during the 2018-2019 flu season. Twenty-eight pediatric influenza-related deaths have been reported to date.
Richard Webby, Ph.D., a member of the Department of Infectious Diseases at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, again urged all Americans to get a flu shot and that is it not too late.
“Even with a currently reported ‘low-severity’ flu season, the virus is still very much active and levels of infection remain elevated throughout the United States, in particular in the Southeast region of the country,” said Dr. Webby of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and one of a select group of scientists responsible for making recommendations on the composition of flu vaccines each year.
Webby continued, “The most effective public health tool available to protect individuals from the flu virus is taking the necessary steps to receive the vaccine. It is not too late to get a flu shot and the vaccine remains fully effective even at this late date. The flu vaccine’s effectiveness rate is estimated between 30 to 60 percent. The more of the public who receives the vaccine means a greater reduction in overall influenza illness.”
The report also determined that flu vaccinations have been effective in protecting many Americans from falling ill from the flu. The report said:
“With vaccine effectiveness in the range of 30%–60%, influenza vaccination prevents millions of infections and medical visits and tens of thousands of influenza-associated hospitalizations each year in the United States. During the 2017–18 season, vaccination averted an estimated 7.1 million illnesses, 3.7 million medical visits, 109,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations, and 8,000 influenza-associated deaths. In addition, influenza vaccination has been found to reduce deaths, intensive care unit admissions and length of stay, and overall duration of hospitalization among hospitalized influenza patients.
“The vaccine is not perfect, but it remains an extremely effective and life-saving public health tool. We all must do our part to protect ourselves and our neighbors, while looking out for the most vulnerable members of our society – and that begins by getting the flu shot,” concluded Dr. Webby.
Dr. Webby recently penned a guest column in Newsweek encouraging the public to get the flu vaccination – it’s not too late.
Many pediatric patients at St. Jude are at a greater risk of getting sick from influenza (flu) and other viral infections because of their diseases and treatments. Therefore, helping to disseminate lifesaving educational information about flu prevention techniques is of paramount importance to the St. Jude Infectious Diseases Department. November through February are peak flu months, and last year’s flu season was one of the deadliest in history.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s Infectious Diseases Department has released a fact sheet with useful tips on prevention titled “Controlling the Spread of Colds and Flu.”
In addition to receiving the flu vaccine, there are also additional simple and effective prevention tips to protect you and your family.
Some of these include:
- Cleaning your hands often with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Staying home if you’re sick.
- Covering your mouth and nose if you cough or sneeze. Also, washing your hands after coughing or sneezing.
- Avoiding touching your nose and mouth.