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Influenza Epidemic Declared in Puerto Rico

By on January 28, 2016

SAN JUAN – Health Secretary Ana Ríus said Thursday that influenza has become an epidemic in Puerto Rico due to the 1,349 reported cases.

Nearly 3,800 cases have been reported and nearly 400 people have been hospitalized since the season began last July. Five people died last year.

“The trend is clear; the cases continue to increase and have already this week nearly 800, so in several weeks we could be declaring an influenza epidemic for the third consecutive year,” state epidemiologist Brenda Rivera said last week, while encouraging people to get vaccinated again, especially the population of those younger than 19. People who are six-months to 8 years old must get a second dose after 30 days, she added.

The epidemiologist said the populations most at risk of developing complications are pregnant or lactating women, children under 5 years old, people over 65 years old and people with conditions such as asthma, diabetes, obesity, cancer, heart or lung disease, kidney or liver failure and immunocompromised patients.

A report published in the Jan. 16 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) estimates that getting a flu vaccine reduced a person’s risk of having to go to the doctor because of flu by 23 percent among people of all ages.

Since the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)  began conducting annual flu vaccine effectiveness (VE) studies in 2004-2005, overall estimates for each season have ranged from 10 percent to 60 percent effectiveness in preventing medical visits associated with seasonal influenza illness.

A factor that influences how well the flu vaccine works is the age and health of the person being vaccinated. In general, the flu vaccine works best in young, healthy people and is less effective in people 65 and older.

The CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine even with the possibility it may not match that season’s viruses because it can prevent some infections and reduce severe disease that can lead to hospitalization and death. Also, the flu vaccine is designed to protect against three or four influenza viruses and some of these other viruses may circulate later in the season.

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