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Many Flu Infections Aren't Good Match for Vaccine: CDC

Posted 1 day 3 hours ago by Drugs.com

THURSDAY, Dec. 18, 2014 – The flu is starting to tighten its grip on much of the United States, particularly in the South and Midwest, U.S. health officials reported Thursday. And more than half of the flu infections examined so far have been caused by the strain known as influenza A H3N2, which appears to have mutated from the H3N2 strain included in this year's flu vaccine. That mutated strain has federal officials concerned because the vaccine may not offer the protection seen in seasons when the vaccine is a better match. Still, health officials are urging that everyone over 6 months of age get vaccinated, because the vaccine will offer some protection, especially for strains that might become more widespread as the flu season progresses. "Vaccination is our most effective means to prevent influenza and its complications," said Melissa Rolfes, an epidemic intelligence service ... Read more

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Frail Elderly Might Benefit From High-Dose Flu Shot

Posted 2 days ago by Drugs.com

THURSDAY, Dec. 18, 2014 – A high-dose influenza vaccine is better than the standard vaccine for frail seniors under care in nursing homes, a new study suggests. Researchers report that the high-dose shot produces a stronger immune response in this elderly population, a potential sign it will keep more cases of flu at bay. "For frail older adults, the high-dose vaccine appears to be a better option to protect against flu than the standard dose," said study leader Dr. David Nace, of the University of Pittsburgh. "Even in the frail, long-term care population, the high-dose flu vaccine looks like it produces a greater antibody response than the standard dose vaccine." About nine out of every 10 flu-related deaths in the United States are among people aged 65 and older, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People aged 85 and older in long-term care communities ... Read more

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Vaccinating Schoolkids Cuts Flu in Communities: Study

Posted 5 days ago by Drugs.com

MONDAY, Dec. 15, 2014 – Giving flu shots to schoolchildren also protects others, a new study finds. "The effect of school-based vaccination was profound, both on the students and on the community," lead author Cuc Tran, a doctoral student in public health at the University of Florida, said in a university news release. When half of the children aged 5 to 17 in Alachua County, Fla., received seasonal flu vaccinations through a school-based program, the flu rate in the entire age group fell by 79 percent. And the flu rate among children aged 4 and younger decreased by 89 percent, even though they weren't included in the vaccination program. Among all non-school-aged residents in the county, the flu rate declined 60 percent, the researchers found. The study was published Dec. 9 in the journal PLOS ONE. The findings may help communities determine how best to target funding, doses of flu ... Read more

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Many Americans Still Haven't Gotten a Flu Shot

Posted 9 days ago by Drugs.com

THURSDAY, Dec. 11, 2014 – Fewer than half of Americans have gotten a flu shot so far this flu season, which might be a bad sign for a season that could be potentially severe, infectious-disease experts said Thursday. Worse, some people are thinking about skipping this year's flu shot, based on reports that the vaccine could provide only partial protection against what has been the predominant influenza strain this season, doctors said. "That's a big concern," said Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, chief of the Communicable Disease Epidemiology and Immunization Section at Public Health – Seattle and King County, Washington state. "We've had many people report that they've heard the vaccine isn't effective so they aren't going to bother this year, or they're questioning if they should bother." Only 39.7 percent of adults and 42 percent of children had received their flu shots through mid-November, ... Read more

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Scientists Find Gene They Say Affects Flu Shot Response

Posted 9 days ago by Drugs.com

THURSDAY, Dec. 11, 2014 – Researchers say they've pinpointed a gene that affects how much protection the flu vaccine gives a person. They analyzed blood samples from more than 200 people who'd had organ transplants. The researchers found that versions of a gene called IL-28B influenced the strength of the immune response trigged by the flu vaccine. Each person has two copies of this gene. The T version of the gene is more common, while the G version is less common. Of the people in the study, most had two copies of the T version. Some people had one copy of the T version and one copy of the G version. A few had two copies of the G version, according to the researchers. The blood of people with at least one copy of the G version of the gene were more likely to have detectable antibodies against the flu strain targeted by the seasonal flu vaccine, according to Adrian Egli, University of ... Read more

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Flu Shot May Offer Less Protection This Winter: CDC

Posted 16 days ago by Drugs.com

THURSDAY, Dec. 4, 2014 – This flu season looks like it could be worse than usual, due to an aggressive strain of influenza virus that might flout the protection provided by this year's vaccine, U.S. health officials warned Thursday. A strain of influenza called H3N2 appears to be circulating most widely this season, and in the past death rates from H3N2 have been more than double that of other flu strains, according to officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We know that in seasons when H3 viruses predominate, we tend to have seasons that are worse flu years, with more hospitalizations from flu and more deaths from influenza," CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said during a news briefing. To make matters more difficult, about half of the H3N2 viruses detected by CDC researchers so far appear to have mutated, and have genetically "drifted" away from the virus ... Read more

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Pediatricians Urge Flu Vaccine for All Kids 6 Months and Older

Posted 22 Sep 2014 by Drugs.com

MONDAY, Sept. 22, 2014 – Pediatricians are urging that all children aged 6 months and older be vaccinated for the upcoming flu season. The American Academy of Pediatrics updated their influenza vaccine recommendations to advise that the youngest kids should have two initial doses of vaccine to build immunity. The AAP also wants parents of children aged 2 to 8 to consider getting their kids the nasal spray vaccine instead of the flu shot if it's readily available. "It's important to get the vaccine as soon as it's available," said lead author Dr. Henry Bernstein, a specialist in pediatrics at North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, N.Y. The recommendations were published online Sept. 22 in the journal Pediatrics. Last year, slightly more than 100 children died from flu, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of these, almost half had no underlying ... Read more

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Get a Flu Shot During Checkup, Doctor Says

Posted 22 Sep 2014 by Drugs.com

SATURDAY, Sept. 20, 2014 – As flu season approaches, the best way to stay healthy and avoid infection is to get a flu shot and a checkup, according to an infectious disease specialist. A primary care doctor can vaccinate people against the flu, and also address other health concerns or issues patients may have. Retail stores may provide flu shots for their customers, but they can't dole out medical advice, said Dr. Jorge Parada, medical director of infection prevention and control for the Loyola University Health System in Maywood, Ill. "At the doctor's office, the focus is on you and what is going on with your health. This is your time to talk about concerns to improve your well-being beyond the flu season," Parada said in a Loyola news release. "You trust your store employee to help you locate items you want to buy, not to diagnose what's causing a persistent symptom, schedule other ... Read more

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Almost Everyone Needs a Flu Shot: CDC

Posted 18 Sep 2014 by Drugs.com

THURSDAY, Sept. 18, 2014 – Less than half of all Americans got a flu shot last year, so U.S. health officials on Thursday urged that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated for the coming flu season. "It's really unfortunate that half of Americans are not getting the protection from flu they could get," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during a morning news conference. The result is lost days from work and school and a lot of preventable suffering, hospitalizations and deaths, he said. Just one-third of adults 18 to 64 – the age group hit especially hard last flu season – were vaccinated against flu last year, according to new CDC figures. Also, more than 100 children died from flu-related complications last year, Frieden noted. "Many of those deaths might have been prevented if children had gotten a flu vaccination," he ... Read more

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All Pregnant Women Need Flu Shot: Ob/Gyn Group

Posted 20 Aug 2014 by Drugs.com

TUESDAY, Aug. 19, 2014 – A group representing U.S. obstetricians is calling for all pregnant women to get a flu shot. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), several studies released in recent years have upheld the safety and effectiveness of flu vaccination during pregnancy. "The flu virus is highly infectious and can be particularly dangerous to pregnant women, as it can cause pneumonia, premature labor, and other complications," Dr. Laura Riley, chair of the college's Immunization Expert Work Group, explained in an ACOG news release. "Vaccination every year, early in the season and regardless of the stage of pregnancy, is the best line of defense," she advised. The best time to get vaccinated is early in the flu season, regardless of the stage of pregnancy, the guidelines state. However, pregnant women can get a flu shot at any time during flu ... Read more

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High-Dose Flu Vaccine May Better Protect the Elderly: Study

Posted 13 Aug 2014 by Drugs.com

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 13, 2014 – The high-dose flu shot protects seniors better than the standard dose does, a new study finds. About one in four cases of flu in older patients vaccinated with the standard dose could be prevented if the high-dose vaccine were used instead, the researchers reported. "The study demonstrated a 24 percent reduction in influenza illness among the participants who received the high-dose vaccine compared to those who received the standard dose," said study co-author Dr. David Greenberg, vice president for scientific and medical affairs and chief medical officer for Sanofi Pasteur U.S., the maker of the Fluzone High-Dose vaccine and funder of the trial. This protection is over and above the protection one gets from the standard flu shot, Greenberg noted. He pointed out that the added protection is essential for older people. "People 65 and older account for about 60 ... Read more

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Childhood Vaccines Vindicated Once More

Posted 1 Jul 2014 by Drugs.com

TUESDAY, July 1, 2014 – Parents worried about getting young children vaccinated against infectious diseases have fresh cause for reassurance, researchers say. A new review of existing scientific evidence has concluded that childhood vaccines are safe and don't cause serious health problems such as autism or leukemia. "Our findings support that vaccines are very safe for children, and add to a substantial body of evidence that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the very low risks," said senior author Dr. Courtney Gidengil, an associate physician scientist at RAND Corporation and an instructor at Harvard Medical School. "Hopefully, this will engage hesitant parents in discussions with their health care providers." The review found strong evidence that the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine is not associated with autism, which is consistent with previous reviews of this rumored ... Read more

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Temporary Fever May Occur When Kids Under 2 Get 2 Shots at Once

Posted 7 Jan 2014 by Drugs.com

TUESDAY, Jan. 7, 2014 – Young children who receive flu and pneumococcal vaccines at the same time are at increased risk for temporary fever, a new study reports. While parents should be told about this risk, the benefits of the vaccines outweigh the risks of fever, the researchers said. The study included 530 children, aged 6 months to 23 months, who were followed for a week after receiving flu and pneumococcal vaccines either separately or at the same time. The annual flu shot is recommended for healthy people over 6 months of age, and the pneumococcal vaccine is recommended for children younger than 5 years old, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 38 percent of the children who received the vaccines at the same time had a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher on the day of or the day after vaccination, compared with 9.5 percent of those who ... Read more

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Testosterone May Undermine Flu Shot's Effectiveness for Men

Posted 23 Dec 2013 by Drugs.com

MONDAY, Dec. 23, 2013 – The flu vaccine is less effective for men than women, and researchers at Stanford University believe they've figured out why. The male hormone testosterone causes genes in the immune system to produce fewer antibodies, or defense mechanisms, in response to the vaccine, they found. "Men, typically, do worse than women in immune response to infection and vaccination," said Stanford research associate David Furman, the lead study investigator. For instance, men are more susceptible to bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic infection than women. And men's immune systems don't respond as robustly as women's to vaccinations against flu, yellow fever, measles, hepatitis and many other diseases, Furman said. For the study, published online Dec. 23 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers analyzed the blood of nearly 90 adults after they ... Read more

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Too Few Americans With Asthma Are Getting Flu Shots, CDC Says

Posted 5 Dec 2013 by Drugs.com

THURSDAY, Dec. 5, 2013 – People with asthma face special risks from influenza, and a new report suggests far too few American asthma patients receive the seasonal flu shot. "Asthmatics are at increased risk for complications from the flu," said one expert, Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "Exacerbations [flare-ups] of asthma are common with any viral infection, but the exacerbation from the flu is particularly severe." The new study, led by Matthew Lozier of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, looked at flu shot uptake during the 2010-2011 flu season. The investigators found that only half of Americans with asthma got a flu shot – a figure that was at least an improvement on the rate of 36 percent observed in the 2005-2006 flu season. However, despite this increase, flu vaccination rates for people with asthma remain ... Read more

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