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WVU expert available for comment on how low vaccine rates may have contributed to deadly rise in flu cases

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s newly released impact report shows that more than 79,000 deaths were attributed to influenza last year. And while West Virginia leads the nation in flu vaccination, with 46.3 percent of the adult population vaccinated, the United States has a long way to go in helping overcome deaths and illnesses related to the flu. 

Dr. Kathryn Moffett
WVU School of Medicine
Professor, Pediatrics
American Board Certified in Pediatrics and Pediatric Infectious Diseases

Is the flu really that big a deal?

“People have a misconception that the flu is just like having a really bad cold, so they question if they really ‘need’ a vaccine. The answer is yes. Unlike a cold, which may have similar but less intense symptoms, the flu virus is a contagious respiratory disease that can lead to serious complications, like pneumonia or death.”

Lower percentages of people getting vaccinated

“Fewer people were vaccinated and more people were sick. That’s not coincidence. Vaccines help to limit the spread of illness and help lower the likelihood of contact for at-risk populations like those with compromised immune systems, children, and elderly adults.”

Why aren’t people getting vaccinated?

“Most people do not think that influenza infection is serious, or worry that they are at risk. In addition, there is much hype on social media about side effects from the vaccine, which are un-truths.”

Vaccines: Dispelling the “it will make me sick” myth 

“Dispel the myth that a flu shot gives you the flu. Flu vaccines are made with inactive or weakened viruses. You cannot get the flu virus from a flu shot. However, some people may suffer slight side effects like low-grade fevers or a sore throat. Compared to a case of the flu, these symptoms are minor and incredibly short-lived. From a medical perspective, I can tell you the benefits to yourself, your family, and the population at large far outweigh the risk of something as trivial as a scratchy throat.”

Impact on others

“More infants are admitted to the hospital each year compared to any other age group. Most of these infants are too young to be vaccinated. So, by getting protected ourselves, we prevent babies (the most vulnerable) from getting sick.” 

“Another group who have high death rates is the elderly- again protect yourself to protect the older folks.” 

Impacting family finances

“Imagine that you are sick for seven or 10 days and need to miss work, or that your child is sick as well. It is possible that you get sick one week, and your child misses another week- that’s two weeks that you might be out of work for the flu virus. That can be a big financial burden for a family.”

Treating the wrong problems

“Another aspect of influenza infection is hard to individually understand, but as a community we must think about it. Antibiotics are not helpful in fighting the flu. Yet many persons will be prescribed antibiotics. The complications that result are hard to measure but may be many. Examples include C diff diarrheal infections, antibiotic resistance, allergic reactions, etc.”

-WVU-

cat 10/30/18

CONTACT: Cassie Thomas, WVU School of Medicine
304.293.3412; cassie.thomas@hsc.wvu.edu

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