Flu

health

Drop in flu deaths may indicate that most at risk died from coronavirus

Flu deaths are down two-thirds from the five-year average, a drop that could indicate the most vulnerable Americans died in the first wave of COVID-19.

New federal estimates show no flu deaths for the week ending Oct. 17. The federal five-year average for the same week is 17 fatalities. New York and New York City recorded no flu deaths, which is also that week’s five-year average for each.

“We are still very early into this influenza season and it’s too early to make any predictions on severity,” Health Department spokesman Michael Lanza told The Post. (iStock)

“We are still very early into this influenza season and it’s too early to make any predictions on severity,” Health Department spokesman Michael Lanza told The Post. (iStock)

The city is taking a wait-and-see attitude, with the flu season just a few weeks old.

“We are still very early into this influenza season and it’s too early to make any predictions on severity,” Health Department spokesman Michael Lanza told The Post.

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A similar pattern is emerging in the UK, where flu and pneumonia took 1,132 lives last month – 28% lower than the five-year monthly average of roughly 1,500.

The country’s Office for National Statistics thinks the drop is because medically vulnerable Brits who would have died this fall from flu and pneumonia instead died this spring from the coronavirus.

But private British statistician Kevin McConway told The Post he doubts “whether it’s the whole story.”

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McConway points out that flu and pneumonia are airborne infections like the coronavirus and the safety guidelines put in place for the pandemic — masks, social distancing and handwashing — would stop them, too.

Said state health department spokesman Jeffrey Hammond: “Wearing masks, social distancing, hand washing, and all the other measures put in place to slow the Coronavirus should also slow the flu and other viruses.”

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US health officials have been urging Americans for months that a bad flu season on top of the COVID outbreak could overwhelm hospitals and increase the risk of catching both infections at the same time.

Pneumonia deaths in the U.S. and across the city and state are down as well. For the week ending Oct. 17, deaths nationwide stood at 1,251 – down 60% from the five-year average of 3,106 for the same week.

The state recorded 93 pneumonia deaths, a 36% decrease from the five-year average of 146 for the same week. The city’s total stood at 51, down the five-year average of 86 — a 41% reduction.

Click for more from NYPost.com.

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South Korea urges people to get flu vaccinations despite concerns about deaths

South Korean commuters wear protective masks as they crowd after getting off the subway during rush hour on September 15, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea.

Chung Sung-Jun | Getty Images

South Korea urged citizens to get vaccinated against influenza and reduce the chances of an outbreak that coincides with the battle on the coronavirus, as it kicked off free inoculations for the last eligible group.

Public anxiety over the safety of flu vaccines has surged after at least 48 people died this month following vaccinations, while, last month, about 5 million doses had to be disposed of after not being stored at recommended temperatures.

Authorities have said they found no direct link between the deaths and the flu shots and have sought to reassure South Koreans about the safety of the vaccines against flu, a disease that kills at least 3,000 each year.

“Vaccination offers far greater benefits compared to side effects, and both the WHO and domestic and overseas experts agree,” Health Minister Park Neung-hoo told a briefing on Sunday, in a reference to the World Health Organization.

Last year, more than 1,500 elderly people died within seven days of receiving flu vaccines, but those deaths were not linked to the vaccinations, the government said.

As South Korea presses on with its inoculations, southeast Asia’s tiny city state of Singapore became one of the first nations this week to call a temporary halt to the use of two influenza vaccines, as a precaution.

Singapore has reported no deaths linked to flu vaccinations.

South Korea ordered 20% more flu vaccines this year to ward off the prospect of what it calls a “twindemic” of concurrent major flu and coronavirus outbreaks in winter.

At least 1,154 instances of adverse reactions have been reported from among more than 9.4 million people inoculated since the effort began in September.

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South Korea urges people to get flu vaccinations despite death tolls

By Sangmi Cha

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea urged citizens to get vaccinated against influenza and reduce the chances of an outbreak that coincides with the battle on the coronavirus, as it kicked off free inoculations for the last eligible group.

Public anxiety over the safety of flu vaccines has surged after at least 48 people died this month following vaccinations, while, last month, about 5 million doses had to be disposed of after not being stored at recommended temperatures.

Authorities have said they found no direct link between the deaths and the flu shots and have sought to reassure South Koreans about the safety of the vaccines against flu, a disease that kills at least 3,000 each year.

“Vaccination offers far greater benefits compared to side effects, and both the WHO and domestic and overseas experts agree,” Health Minister Park Neung-hoo told a briefing on Sunday, in a reference to the World Health Organization.

Last year, more than 1,500 elderly people died within seven days of receiving flu vaccines, but those deaths were not linked to the vaccinations, the government said.

As South Korea presses on with its inoculations, southeast Asia’s tiny city state of Singapore became one of the first nations this week to call a temporary halt to the use of two influenza vaccines, as a precaution.

Singapore has reported no deaths linked to flu vaccinations.

South Korea ordered 20% more flu vaccines this year to ward off the prospect of what it calls a “twindemic” of concurrent major flu and coronavirus outbreaks in winter.

At least 1,154 instances of adverse reactions have been reported from among more than 9.4 million people inoculated since the effort began in September.

(Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps)

(Reporting by Sangmi Cha; Editing by Miyoung Kim and Clarence Fernandez)

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Washington Offering Free Flu Shots To Uninsured Adults

WASHINGTON — This year’s flu season has been very mild, and state health officials would like to keep it that way.

The Washington State Department of Health has announced a new program, offering free flu shots to uninsured adults at 23 participating Albertsons and Safeway pharmacies across the state.

To qualify for a free shot, patients must be over 18 and uninsured. No proof of residency or immigration status will be required. Flu vaccines are already being offered and the program will run through June of 2021.

Participating Pharmacies in Western Washington

Location

Address

Phone Number

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1546)

221 West Heron Street
Aberdeen, WA 98520

(360) 532-8743

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #0531)

101 Auburn Way S
Auburn, WA 98002

(253) 735-4404

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #3285)

1275 E Sunset Drive
Bellingham, WA 98226

(360) 650-1537

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1467)

900 N Callow
Bremerton, WA 98312

(360) 792-9262

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #0474)

1715 Broadway
Everett, WA 98201

(425) 339-9448

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1484)

4128 Rucker Ave
Everett, WA 98203

(425) 258-3552

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1294)

210 Washington Ave S
Kent, WA 98032

(253) 852-5115

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1464)

3215 Harrison Avenue NW
Olympia, WA 98502

(360) 956-3827

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1492)

110 East 3rd Street
Port Angeles, WA 98362

(360) 457-0599

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1563)

200 S 3rd Street
Renton, WA 98057

(425) 226-0325

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1508)

3820 Rainier Avenue South
Seattle, WA 98118

(206) 725-9887

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #3213)

15332 Aurora Ave N
Shoreline, WA 98133

(206) 539-5500

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #0329)

1112 South M Street
Tacoma, WA 98405

(253) 627-8840

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1437)

1302 E 38th Street
Tacoma, WA 98418

(253) 471-1630

Learn more about the program from the Washington State Department of Health’s website.

Washington’s top health officials say, in the middle of a pandemic, the last thing our medical system needs is an influx of flu patients.

“The potential for a severe influenza season, or even an average influenza season, compounding the COVID outbreak is very, very disturbing and worrisome,” said King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin.

Read more: Health Experts: Now ‘More Important Than Ever’ To Get Flu Vaccine

The flu shot is recommended for everyone six months old or older. Patients over 65 should consult with their doctor first.

The Washington State Department of Health says there are several changes patients should be aware of for the 2020-2021 flu season:

  • All children under 19 can now receive flu vaccines and other recommended vaccines for free.

  • Most insurance plan cover the cost of the flu vaccine for adults.

  • Adults without insurance may qualify to recieve the vaccine at no cost. Find more information on free vaccination from your local health department.

Guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows the best time to get vaccinated is between September and October, though if the flu season persists past October it’s never too late to get the vaccine. Receiving a vaccine too early, like in August or July, can leave it

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Health officials ramp up flu shot efforts, including free vaccines at Audubon Zoo on Oct. 26 | The Latest | Gambit Weekly

Health officials at the Louisiana Department of Health and the City of New Orleans are asking Louisianans to roll up their shirt sleeves and get flu shots as they ramp up efforts to distribute these essential vaccines.

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, for which there is still no vaccine or cure, health officials say it’s more important than ever to get the shot, especially because COVID-19 and the flu sometimes have similar symptoms and both can be fatal. They have for months warned of a “twin-demic” this fall and are concerned about overwhelmed hospitals, as the flu can also lead to lengthy stays and require medical care around the clock.

Dr. Gina Lagarde, the LDH’s regional medical director for the Northshore, said the health department will be conducting “mass vaccination exercises in each of the state’s regions” over the next several weeks, in partnerships with local pharmacies. The department will be making an extra effort to reach out to historically under-vaccinated populations, including low-income, rural and minority communities that frequently lack access to health care.

On Oct. 26, free vaccines will be available at the Audubon Zoo from 1 to 6 p.m., in partnership with New Orleans Health Department, New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness and the Audubon Zoo. 

 “It is critical,” Lagarde told Gambit. “We worry about the surge to our emergency rooms. With the cold and flu season, we know the impact on our emergency rooms and in our hospitals. We need to get as many people as vaccinated as possible.”

The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control and the LDH have long recommended a yearly flu shot for everyone over 6 months of age and note that it’s especially crucial for people at higher risk of serious complications, including babies and young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions and citizens aged 65 years and older.

Most seasonal flu activity occurs between October and May, peaking between December and February. The LDH notes that the flu shot will not prevent COVID-19, but it will reduce the burden of the flu illness, hospitalizations and deaths. Though the flu is less fatal than COVID-19, both are highly contagious illnesses that can impact long-term health and require lengthy recovery periods.

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South Korean authorities stick to flu vaccine plan after deaths rise to 48

SEOUL (Reuters) – The number of South Koreans who have died after getting flu shots has risen to 48, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said on Saturday, adding that the vaccines would continue to reduce the chance of having simultaneous epidemics.

FILE PHOTO: A man gets an influenza vaccine at a branch of the Korea Association of Health Promotion in Seoul, South Korea, October 23, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

The health authorities said they found no direct link between the deaths and the shots. They plan to carry on with the state-run vaccination programme to try to avoid having to fight both the flu and the coronavirus over the coming winter.

“After reviewing death cases so far, it is not the time to suspend a flu vaccination programme since vaccination is very crucial this year, considering … the COVID-19 outbreaks,” KDCA Director Jeong Eun-kyung told a briefing.

Jeong said the review had shown no direct link between the flu shots and the 26 deaths that have been investigated.

Some 20 initial autopsy results from the police and the National Forensic Service showed that 13 people died of cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and other disorders not caused by the vaccination.

The death toll among those who have been vaccinated rose by 12 cases from a day earlier to 48 on Saturday.

The rising deaths have caused some doctors and politicians to call for a halt to the government campaign to vaccinate about 30 million of the country’s 54 million people.

While encouraging people to get flu vaccines, Jeong issued precautions to take before getting the shot, such as drinking enough water and telling healthcare workers about any underlying medical conditions. She also advised people to wait 15-30 minutes before leaving the clinic where they receive their vaccine.

“If possible, try to get the flu shot when it’s warm, since there are concerns that low temperatures could affect cardiovascular disease or cerebrovascular disease,” she said.

The KDCA said 9.4 million people had been inoculated as of Friday in the programme that began in September, with 1,154 cases of adverse reactions.

South Korea reported 77 new coronavirus cases as of Friday midnight, bringing total infections to 25,775, with 457 deaths.

Reporting by Heekyong Yang; Editing by Tom Hogue

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South Korean Authorities Stick to Flu Vaccine Plan After Deaths Rise to 48 | World News

SEOUL (Reuters) – The number of South Koreans who have died after getting flu shots has risen to 48, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said on Saturday, adding that the vaccines would continue to reduce the chance of having simultaneous epidemics.

The health authorities said they found no direct link between the deaths and the shots. They plan to carry on with the state-run vaccination programme to try to avoid having to fight both the flu and the coronavirus over the coming winter.

“After reviewing death cases so far, it is not the time to suspend a flu vaccination programme since vaccination is very crucial this year, considering … the COVID-19 outbreaks,” KDCA Director Jeong Eun-kyung told a briefing.

Jeong said the review had shown no direct link between the flu shots and the 26 deaths that have been investigated.

Some 20 initial autopsy results from the police and the National Forensic Service showed that 13 people died of cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and other disorders not caused by the vaccination.

The death toll among those who have been vaccinated rose by 12 cases from a day earlier to 48 on Saturday.

The rising deaths have caused some doctors and politicians to call for a halt to the government campaign to vaccinate about 30 million of the country’s 54 million people.

While encouraging people to get flu vaccines, Jeong issued precautions to take before getting the shot, such as drinking enough water and telling healthcare workers about any underlying medical conditions. She also advised people to wait 15-30 minutes before leaving the clinic where they receive their vaccine.

“If possible, try to get the flu shot when it’s warm, since there are concerns that low temperatures could affect cardiovascular disease or cerebrovascular disease,” she said.

The KDCA said 9.4 million people had been inoculated as of Friday in the programme that began in September, with 1,154 cases of adverse reactions.

South Korea reported 77 new coronavirus cases as of Friday midnight, bringing total infections to 25,775, with 457 deaths.

(Reporting by Heekyong Yang; Editing by Tom Hogue)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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UnitedHealth Ships Flu Kits to Medicare Recipients

With Covid-19 hospitalizations spiking again in many parts of the country, public health officials have expressed concerns about a perennial source of strain on the health care system: seasonal flu. As threats of a “twindemic” loom, health care workers have stressed the need for vaccination and other preventive measures to slow the spread of flu.

One insurance company is going further to try to mitigate the effects of flu season: UnitedHealthCare, the country’s largest health insurance company, plans to provide at-risk patients with 200,000 kits that include Tamiflu, the prescription antiviral treatment; a digital thermometer; and a coronavirus P.C.R. diagnostic test. People can take the test at home and then mail it in for laboratory analysis, helping patients and doctors determine the cause of their symptoms, which is particularly important because the coronavirus and flu have similar symptoms but differ in treatment.

“These viruses have proven themselves highly capable of putting strain on our health care system alone,” said Dr. Kelly Moore, an associate director of the Immunization Action Coalition. “Their combined impact is really worrisome.”

In late September, UnitedHealthcare began inviting its Medicare Advantage members to sign up for the kits either online or by phone, starting with a focus on those at highest risk of complications from Covid-19 and the flu based on their age and health status. Since then, 120,000 people have enrolled, and the company has begun shipping the kits. The company has more than 5 million Medicare Advantage members.

The company said supplying people with Tamiflu in advance could help to mitigate the severity of flu infections because the antiviral medication gets less effective with every hour that passes from onset of symptoms and is virtually ineffective after 48 hours. Tamiflu on average shortens the duration of illness by one to two days if taken rapidly, according to Dr. Moore. It can also help prevent illness in someone at high risk of complications who has been exposed to the flu, but is not routinely recommended for preventive use in most populations.

All members signing up for the flu kits had to confirm the state where they live so that the Tamiflu prescription could be dispensed by a physician in their state. They had to attest, either over the phone or through an online form, that they would wait to take the prescription drug or the coronavirus test until after receiving direction from a physician through a telemedicine appointment, though there is no additional system for verifying this process once they receive their kits. Members also had to agree not to give the medication to others.

“We thought, ‘Imagine if you start getting sick and already had a mini pharmacy at home,’” said Dr. Deneen Vojta, executive vice president for research and development at UnitedHealthcare. The goal, she added, is to decrease the number of emergency room visits, hospitalizations and deaths resulting from seasonal flu.

There is no charge for the Tamiflu or the coronavirus test, as long as people receive advice from a doctor via

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South Korean officials find no direct link between flu vaccine and recent deaths

The country’s government has rolled out a flu vaccine campaign, concerned about the potential simultaneous spread of coronavirus and influenza.

At least 36 people have died after taking flu vaccinations since last Friday, including a 17-year-old. The average age of those who died was 74, according to the South Korean Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

As of Friday, more than 14 million people had gotten the flu vaccine, of which 9.4 million were children, elderly, and pregnant women, according to the KDCA.

Ki Moran, a professor at South Korea’s National Cancer Centre, said the flu vaccine is known to cause serious side effects in one out of 10 million people.

In 2019, 227,000 people over the age of 65 died in South Korea, she added. That’s an average of 621 deaths a day, to put the recent figures into perspective.

The KDCA decided on Friday not to suspend the flu vaccinations. The vaccination expert committee will hold a meeting Saturday morning to review additional data, according to a KDCA statement.

Rare side effects

This might be your most important flu shot ever

The KDCA’s Friday meeting came after rising scrutiny from experts and politicians.

On Friday, South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun called for a thorough investigation into the deaths, citing public anxiety, according to a press release by the Health Ministry. He did not call for a halt to the vaccination campaign.

The Korean Medical Association, a coalition of 130,000 doctors, has urged the government to suspend the vaccination program for a week until they determined the cause of the deaths.

In a statement, the Korean Vaccine Society emphasized the importance of the flu vaccine, especially “for children, the elderly, and patients with chronic diseases and low immune system.” The organization cited concerns about the possible spread of flu during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Experts globally are preparing for flu season in the middle of the pandemic. “This is a critical year for us to try to take flu as much off the table as we can,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in an interview with the AMA’s JAMA Network.

One reason is to decrease the strain on public health services and hospitals, which are bracing for a winter wave. Experts say it possible to get Covid-19 and the flu simultaneously — and, because flu symptoms look so similar to that of Covid-19, it will be impossible to rule out a coronavirus diagnosis without a test. That means a case of the flu can cause substantial disruption to work and school.

In South Korea, Covid-19 has infected 25,775 people and killed 457, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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Wisconsin breaks Covid-19 records as hospitals brace for flu season

MADISON, Wis. – Inside UW Health, the Covid-19 units keep growing — and the stress is rising.

“The people we’re seeing in here are very sick,” nurse Katie Lanoway said. “They are lonely. They are dealing with this alone and it’s becoming increasingly harder for us to try to manage, and playing all these different roles: playing the nurse, playing the support person. It’s very difficult.”

NBC News received a rare tour of one of thee units, which had previously reached its capacity of 28 beds. It’s currently down to about 20 patients. At first, the unit stretched just one hallway. Now, it’s four.

Image: Dr Gavinski (NBC News)
Image: Dr Gavinski (NBC News)

On Friday, Wisconsin reported a seven-day rolling average of its positivity rate: 22.7 percent. (That’s the percentage of tests that come back positive.) The same rate in New York is currently barely above 1 percent — and even that’s considered risky.

Wisconsin also set several records: most cases in a seven-day period (24,292)l the highest average cases per day (3,470) and the highest average coronavirus-related deaths per day (24).

Almost all of the state’s 72 counties now have what public health officials say is a “very high” level of the virus.

“It’s terrifying,” said Dr. Katie Gavinski, who started working at UW Health in Madison this summer. “I’m very scared that if this doesn’t stop soon, we’re going to end up with a much bigger problem come winter and flu season.”

The shifts are taking their toll.

“It’s devastating to see someone struggling to breathe,” Gavinski said. “You can see the fear in their eyes. You can see how scared they are.”

UW Health has had months to prepare, putting it in a better position than most. It has adequate personal protective equipment and it has the space to be able to rearrange Covid-19 wards. But if the flu season creates another surge of patients, staffing could be a challenge.

Dr. Jeff Pothof is UW Health’s chief quality officer and an emergency medicine physician.

“What I can’t do by the snap of my fingers is create critical care nurses, create critical care physicians and bring their expertise to the bedside,” he said.

Just across town, the Big Ten conference is set to kick off its college football season Friday night. There will be no fans in the stadium, no tailgating allowed and police plan to enforce rules banning outdoor gatherings of more than 25 people.

Image: UW Hospital Madison (NBC News)
Image: UW Hospital Madison (NBC News)

But health care workers have an urgent warning for those who don’t plan to take the virus seriously and will congregate anyway.

“The Badger game this evening does worry us,” Pothof said. “We have a very healthy culture of celebrating the Badgers, tailgating, parties — and if that happens this year, with how much Covid is in our communities, it is certain to cause a super-spreader event. … We need to celebrate the Badgers, but we need to do it differently.”

Compared to the beginning of the pandemic,

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