Flu vaccine rated 62 percent effective

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided an update Friday on how well the flu vaccine was protecting people from getting the flu virus widespread in many areas of the country, including Western Pennsylvania.

Based on data from 1,155 children and adults with flu-like respiratory illness checked between Dec. 3 and Jan. 2 at five study sites, the vaccine's estimated effectiveness was 62 percent.

The conclusion was the vaccine has "moderate effectiveness against circulating influenza viruses," and the CDC recommended that anyone 6 months old and up be vaccinated, if they haven't received the vaccine yet. If people who have had the vaccine do get sick with the flu, antiviral medication should be used as recommended for treatment, as it is for nonvaccinated people.

Michael Gronostaj, of the Allegheny County Health Department, said Friday there is plenty of flu vaccine available at county immunization sites, doctors' offices and flu shot clinics at local pharmacies. Dr. Gronostaj said the antiviral drug, Tamiflu, given by prescription, is also in good supply. Because demand may now be high, he recommended people call flu-shot sites ahead of time before they plan to get the vaccine.

Dr. Gronostaj said the best advice to avoid the flu, as well as the norovirus that causes stomach upset, is for people to wash their hands often -- with soap and water.

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