While the flu is now widespread in Massachusetts, it’s still sporadic in Rhode Island. But 16 Rhode Islanders have already been hospitalized, and officials expect the number of cases to spike.
Health department officials say so far there have been no flu deaths, but in past years flu has killed well over a hundred people in Rhode Island. They say one of this year’s dominant strains in Rhode Island and nationally is H1N1, but that’s also one of the strains this year’s vaccine protects against.
C. Difficile is a highly contagious infection people can catch in hospitals or after taking antibiotics. It sickens many and kills about 14,000 people every year. But there’s hope for preventing these infections as a new vaccine moves into the clinical trial phase. The Miriam Hospital is participating in the trial.
Herd, as in "herd immunity," the concept being that the majority of vaccinated people protect the minority who aren't vaccinated, a kind of safety-in-numbers for your immune system. But what if the number in the minority starts to creep up?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates this year’s flu vaccine was effective about fifty percent of the time. But the vaccine was much less protective for older adults.
The CDC found that vaccinations against influenza types A and B were about 56 percent effective overall. But in people aged 65 and older, the vaccines only worked 27 percent of the time. But Rhode Island Department of Health director Doctor Michael Fine says that’s no reason NOT to get vaccinated.
I blogged earlier this summer about a pertussis (whooping cough) outbreak in Rhode Island and a growing number of cases throughout the country (see the latest from the RI Dept. of Health). There were some indications then that the vaccine was losing its efficacy. But that may not be the full picture.