The New Mexico Department of Health is reporting the flu vaccine for this season appears to be a good match with circulating strains. Preliminary data from the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) shows that overall influenza vaccine effectiveness is nearly 60 percent. In other words, getting this season’s flu vaccine will reduce the risk of going to a doctor due to flu by nearly 60 percent. Widespread flu activity is being reported across the state, and the department is urging anyone who did not get a flu shot this season, to get vaccinated.
“Flu viruses cause serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths every season — even in healthy people,” said Deputy Secretary of Health Lynn Gallagher. “Getting a flu vaccination each season is the best way to protect yourself, your family, and your community from influenza.”
Although elevated flu activity this season started a bit later than the previous three seasons, it is expected to continue for several more weeks. Flu activity is monitored with a variety of surveillance systems, including a network of 27 providers throughout the state that report influenza-like illnesses (fever with cough or sore throat) from October through May. Providers participating in this surveillance network reported that for the week ending March 19, 2016, 4.7 percent of their patient visits were for influenzalike illness.
Flu-related hospitalizations and deaths have also increased in recent weeks. The overall hospitalization rate in New Mexico has increased to 15.4 people per 100,000 population, with young children (ages 0 to 4 years) and adults older than 65 years twice as likely to be hospitalized.
New Mexico has identified 115 influenza and pneumonia-related deaths this flu season. Of those 115 deaths, 13 were flu-related deaths among adults.
Many of the 112 pneumonia-related deaths may have been related to complications from having flu, as pneumonia is a known complication of influenza infection.
Everyone six months and older should get a flu vaccine each flu season. Flu vaccine protects against multiple strains of flu that may be circulating at any given time, and people can get infected with more than one type of flu during the season. For the past few seasons in New Mexico, influenza B virus has circulated later in the season; the current vaccine is 76 percent effective against B viruses.
The Department of Health recommends that individuals talk with their healthcare provider or pharmacist about getting the flu vaccine. The department offers vaccinations for people without insurance or who are otherwise not able to get vaccinated. Those with Medicaid or other insurance who go to Public Health Offices are asked to bring their insurance card. The Department of Health also recommends that you ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you need the pneumococcal vaccine which can be given at the same time as flu vaccine. Influenza frequently causes types of pneumonia that can be prevented by the pneumococcal vaccine.
People in high risk groups and those who live with or care for high-risk individuals are especially encouraged to get vaccinated against the flu. People in high-risk groups are at increased risk for having serious flu‐related complications, such as hospitalization and death. People in these groups should also consider seeing their healthcare provider to be evaluated for antiviral medications if they develop flu symptoms. Flu symptoms may include rapid illness onset with fever, cough, sore throat, headache, and/or muscle aches.
For more information about flu, visit http://nmhealth.org/about/phd/idb/imp/fluv/.