We??ve heard it already: H1N1 is back, accounting for a majority of reported cases nationwide and 37 pediatric deaths, including one in Michigan.
Western U.P. Health Department Medical Director, Dr. Terry Frankovich, said this year the newer strain seems to be targeting an unsuspecting age group.
??You??re still more likely to get hospitalized if you??re a senior, but in terms of total numbers, we??re seeing a lot more hospitalizations in this younger age group than we ever see in a typical flu year,?? said Dr. Frankovich.
Typically, seniors over 65 years old, infants, women who are pregnant, and people with chronic diseases are most at risk, but adults aged 18 to 64 make up about 60 percent of flu cases this year.
A wide age range it may be, Dr. Frankovich said it??s still unknown why so many are getting sick compared to past years.
??Because it??s a newer strain, we haven??t all been exposed to it year after year after year, so there may be a little less natural immunity from people who have been exposed in the past,?? Dr. Frankovich explained.
Both vaccines this flu season cover H1N1 along with three other prevalent strains, and doctors say there seems to be little resistance from the virus.
Medications prescribed to flu patients are also showing positive results. So, why is there such a large number of infected younger adults?
??There may be some under-vaccinating in that age group as well,?? Dr. Frankovich added. ??In fact, in a lot of the hospitalizations that we??ve seen in young, healthy adults have been in people who were either unvaccinated or had not gotten the vaccine in advance enough, so they had actually been exposed to the flu already and it wasn??t able to protect them.??
And it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to kick in.
Overall, Dr. Frankovich said as far as the numbers go, this season is typical. Vaccines are still available, and, of course, it always helps to eat healthy, wash your hands, and cover your cough.