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The Nasty Business of Flu in Idaho

"The H3N2 influenza has been dominant in Idaho in past seasons, and the vaccine is a very good match for that particular strain."

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Most people do whatever possible to avoid the flu, but Randi Pedersen deals with illness for a living. As the newly hired influenza surveillance coordinator for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Pedersen is constantly checking with emergency rooms, outpatient clinics and laboratories across Idaho to help identify circulating strains of the bug.

"Even at parties, people are always asking me about the flu," she said. "And of course, I'm always advocating for a flu vaccine."

That alone can be a formidable task.

"There has been a lot in the media lately about the effectiveness of the vaccine," said Pedersen. "You may have read that there was a 10 percent vaccine efficacy. Well, that came out of Australia during its flu season. In fact, we don't yet have the vaccine estimates. Those numbers won't be out until February, but I can tell you that the H3N2 influenza has been dominant in Idaho in past seasons, and the vaccine is a very good match for that particular strain."

As for Idahoans who push back against vaccinations of any kind, particularly for their children, Pedersen takes a more measured, non-confrontational approach.

"We obviously recommend the vaccine, but we also understand that a vaccine may not be the best fit for everybody," she said. "Talk to your doctor, and get an informed decision. If you end up getting sick with the flu, stay home, get lots of rest and if your illness starts to become severe, get to your doctor right away. There are antiviral medications that can certainly help you recover more quickly and prevent you from being hospitalized."

Already, more than 23 flu-related deaths have been reported in Idaho this season, the highest number in seven years.

"As for how long the season lasts, it typically runs through May," said Pederson. "Things usually peak in January or early February."



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