Atlanta, Ga. (CBS ATLANTA) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting that the flu vaccine has only been 62 percent effective amid 47 states reporting widespread illness.
Forty-seven states are reporting widespread influenza activity, which is three more states than officials estimated last week. Two more children have died since the report was made, raising the total to 20 kids who have died as a result of the virus, CBS News reports. Twenty-four states and New York City reported “high” influenza activity and 16 states reported “moderate” activity.
“Many patients seem to have more severe illness this year as opposed to last year,” Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said in an email to CBS News. “In fact, a number of patients have required mechanical ventilation (respirator) due to difficulty breathing. We have also seen a number of children under the age of 5 with severe symptoms including muscle aches along with vomiting.”
The last CDC report covered the week of Dec. 30-Jan. 5, and one is issued on Friday of each week.
A new study was also released on Friday, Jan. 11 in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report journal that found this year’s flu vaccine to be only 62 percent effective. That report was based on test results from 1,155 children and adults diagnosed with respiratory infections.
However, the agency insisted that this year’s vaccine matches well to the flu strains and continues to recommend flu shots for everyone over the age of six.
But even when vaccinated, some older people and those with certain chronic illnesses might not develop the same high levels of immunity as healthy, young adults, the CDC says on its website. The effectiveness of the vaccine also depends on how well it matches the strains of viruses that actually end up prevailing during the flu season.
“However, these early [vaccine effectiveness] estimates underscore that some vaccinated persons will become infected with influenza,” wrote the CDC researchers. “Therefore, antiviral medications should be used as recommended for treatment in patients, regardless of vaccination status.”
So far, this year’s North American vaccine matches well with the most predominant type of flu spreading in the United States, but is less well matched to the No. 2 type of virus. This year’s North American vaccine is made from three viruses: two types of influenza A virus (H3N2 and H1N1) and an influenza B virus.
From Oct. 1 of 2012 through the report, an estimated 13.3 per 100,000 people were hospitalized with flu. The hardest hit group were adults ages 65 and older. Adults with underlying conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity and lung disease (excluding asthma) were more likely to be hospitalized.