Dr. John Wieland said the flu spread appears worse this year becauase last year's strain was so mild. (Inset photo by krossbow/flickr)
By Eric Stock
BLOOMINGTON - The flu has been filling hospitals and doctor's offices across the country, but the outbreak might not be as bad as you think.
The Centers for Disease Control reports this year's flu strain is moderate, even though 47 states, including Illinois, have had outbreaks.
"Is it moderate because there aren't as many people affected or is it because the symptoms are not quite as severe, fewer deaths, etc.?," Wieland asks, adding that this year's flu strain might appear worse this year because last year's flu strain was mild.
This year's flu vaccine has a 62-percent effectiveness rate, which Wieland said is about average. He said the effectiveness is typically between 50 and 70 percent.
Wieland said there are some strains of the flu vaccine that are not part of the vaccine that have seen some activity. This year's vaccine has elements of three viruses, though it's not the live virus.
"Some influenza viruses can sort of congregate in the airways of the lungs and so that's a portion of what would make the vaccine less effective," Wieland said.
Wieland says common myths about why people don't get the flu shot - claiming that it gives them the flu or contains unsafe levels of mercury - are unfounded.
"Most of those objections are based on non-scientific criteria," Wieland said.
Eric Stock can be reached at email@example.com.