Reported flu cases practically non-existant so far this year - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Reported flu cases practically non-existant so far this year

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Posted: Thursday, January 26, 2012 3:57 pm

Fewer Arizonans are experiencing the flu this year - much fewer - based on statistics from the Arizona Department of Health Services.

There have been only 48 confirmed reports of influenza in Arizona since the official flu season began in October, compared to 2,642 at this time last year. That's a 98 percent drop in confirmed cases.

The state health department warns there could still be a rise in cases that comes most often in February. But the good news is the influenza strains floating around are a "good match for what's been put in the vaccine," said Dr. Cara Christ, bureau chief and medical director for the bureau of epidemiology and disease control for the state health department.

"The vaccine has stayed the same for virtually the last two years," she said, improving the likelihood people who received the shot are immune.

But Christ warns, "Influenza is always unpredictable. Just like in 2009 in May, we didn't know we were going to see the brand new strain that went around the world," referring to H1N1. A vaccine against H1N1 is now included in the seasonal flu shot.

Fifty percent of the cases this season have been in adults ages 19 to 49; 25 percent of the cases have been in adults 65 and older. Children 18 and younger make up 14 percent of the confirmed cases.

Since people with flu-like symptoms don't always go to a doctor, these totals only represent a small number of the possible influenza cases going on in Arizona at this time, the health services department reports.

Arizona has seen a higher number of confirmed RSV cases in the state, but that figure is still down 57 percent from last year. Since the respiratory syncytial virus began in October, there have been 348 confirmed cases, with 94 percent in children under 5.

RSV is a respiratory illness that appears with cold-like symptoms. But because of the extreme mucus buildup, young children are susceptible to severe illness since their airways are so small. Most of the cases this year - 183 - are in children under age 1.

Unlike influenza, there is no widespread vaccine available for RSV. A small number of infants listed as seriously at-risk, including premature babies, may receive a vaccine ordered by a physician.

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