Since mid-December, the state of South Dakota has seen the most reported cases of influenza since 2009’s epidemic, and this year the vaccine dispensed across the state is only 23 percent effective.
Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist, said the virus is especially harmful to youths and the elderly. The state still recommends getting the flu shot as the best preventative measure the public can take against the virus.
“We are still recommending them. However, this year has been a bad year for the flu vaccine,” Kightlinger said. “The national data shows 23 percent effectiveness for this year’s flu vaccine against the predominant viral strain that is circulating this year.”
Virus A(H3N2) is the most common viral strain during this year’s flu season. According to the South Dakota Department of Health, the A virus has been responsible for 25 deaths and 483 hospitalizations as of Jan. 24.
Junior Ryan Hepper said the low effective rate of the vaccine is a concern. It affected his decision to get the vaccine.
“I haven’t gotten vaccinated,” Hepper said. “This is actually the first time in many years I haven’t been vaccinated.”
Kightlinger said the virus drifted, meaning the viral strains used in the vaccine are not a perfect match with the most common virus of the season.
“The recommendation is still to use the vaccine because it’s not just one strain in the vaccine,” Kightlinger said. “There’s four different strains in the vaccine… Getting the vaccine will still make you less sick, less risk of getting hospitalized if you haven’t gotten the vaccine. It’s all we got.”
Still, Kightlinger said there are more preventative measures for influenza. Washing hands and making sick people stay home help.
“Once people get sick, there is an antiviral drug,” he said. “We’re really trying to encourage physicians to make good use of that antiviral drug this year.”