People often approach the flu season with a shrug and no worries. But the flu can kill. This year the pandemic strain of influenza A (pH1N1) from 2009 has re-emerged and is causing widespread illness and deaths.
So far, influenza related deaths have been reported in Texas, California, Tennessee, Washington, Ohio, Oregon and North Carolina. In Texas alone, 19 people have already died including a perfectly healthy 13-year-old girl, one of six pediatric deaths reported so far. From November through December 2013, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has received numerous reports of severe respiratory illness among young and middle-aged adults, due the influenza A (pH1N1) strain.
In Vermont, influenza is just beginning to take off. at the UVM Medical Center we are seeing increasing number of person testing positive for influenza, present to the emergency department and clinics with fever, cough, pneumonia and worsening of chronic heart and lung disease. At this early stage of the flu season, 10 patients have been admitted to the UVM Medical Center with influenza, including three seriously ill patients to the intensive care unit.
The best thing you can do to protect yourself, your family, friends and co-workers is to get vaccinated. The vaccine is safe and well-tolerated. It is not too late – influenza generally lasts well into April.
Christopher Grace, MD, is Director of Infectious Disease at the UVM Medical Center and a Professor at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM.