Flu Closes Schools, Flusters Hospitals Nationwide

Four-year-old Gabriella Diaz sits as a nurse administers a flu shot at the Whittier Street Health Center in Boston, Mass. on Jan 9, 2013. | AP Photo

This year’s flu vaccine is doing a pretty crummy job.

It’s only 23 percent effective, which is one of the worst performances in the last decade, according to a government study released Thursday.

For children 17 and younger, the shot is 26 percent effective. For older adults, the shot is even less effective: 12 percent for those between 18 and 49 and 14 percent for those over 50.

Every year the health community predicts what we’ll be hit with the most in order to prepare flu shots, but this year’s vaccine isn’t a great match. The vaccine doesn’t include the bug that is making most people sick, health officials say. In the last decade, flu vaccines at their best were 50 to 60 percent effective.

“This is an uncommon year,” said Dr. Alicia Fry, a flu vaccine expert at the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who was involved in the study.

The findings are not surprising, though. In early December, CDC officials warned the vaccine probably wouldn’t work very well because it isn’t well matched to a strain that’s been spreading widely: H3N2, which is a more severe strain than most.

This flu season continues to prove to be exceptionally difficult. Schools around the nation are closing and hospitals are overwhelmed.

In Minco, Oklahoma, a public school with too many children out sick decided to close its doors for the week, according to ABC’s Oklahoma affiliate KOCO-TV.

In Philadelphia, 75 Nazareth Academy Grade School students were out Tuesday with flu-like symptoms, forcing the school to close Wednesday for cleaning, according to ABC Philadelphia station WPVI-TV. The school only has about 200 students.

And in Nevada, hospitals are so full of flu patients that they’re asking people without emergencies to seek care somewhere else, multiple news outlets in the area have reported.

Henrico Schools sent  out a letter in mid-December to parents saying that children in multiple schools were sick with flu.

Those especially at risk for developing flu complications include people older than 65, pregnant women and people with underlying medical conditions, such as asthma and kidney disorders.

Click here to learn more about the flu vaccine.

Looking for a place to get your flu shot? Click here to find somewhere offering vaccines near you.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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