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Virus Watch

The Wuhan coronavirus is novel, but don't forget the flu.

by James Leonard

From the March, 2020 issue

The only suspected cases of the new Wuhan coronavirus in Washtenaw County have tested negative. But for sure the flu is back--and in mid-February, the Centers for Disease Control reported that infection rates were still rising.

"I doubt most folks understand that there are literally hundreds of hospitalizations and, at the very least, a few deaths [from the flu] every year," emails Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, Washtenaw County Health Department communications administrator. In the last decade, more than 2,000 people in the county had cases so severe they had to be hospitalized--and sixty-six died.

"We're calling this season moderately severe," Ringler-Cerniglia writes, "and activity is still increasing ... There will still be plenty of flu season left in March."

Everybody from the county to Kroger is promoting vaccination. "Definitely flu shots are more widely available from other providers, pharmacies, etc. than they used to be," writes Ringler-Cerniglia. "Some of this change in recent years is likely related to the Affordable Care Act and greater vaccine coverage for adults."

Because the flu virus has many strains and is constantly evolving, a new vaccine is needed every year. To get it produced and distributed in time, virologists have to decide very early what strains to protect against and rarely hit that moving target exactly. "The overall effectiveness averages around 40 percent," Ringler-Cerniglia writes--but "some protection is better than none."

She got hers: "Shots are provided for us here at work."     (end of article)


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