Flu strain variations impact vaccine effectiveness

Cases of flue have decreased in Mahoning County

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Almost 3,000 Ohioans have been hospitalized with the flu this season, according to the Ohio State Department of Health. Of those, 935 required a hospital stay.

The flu is widespread in the Buckeye state and Pennsylvania. Because of a mutation in one of the flu strains, vaccines given this year may not offer complete protection, but Mahoning County Health Commissioner Patricia Sweeney said the vaccine does seem to be helping with the other three strains.

“It is not an exact match. Every year it is not an exact match. There are times when there is a variation. Nothing is totally effective,” Sweeney said.

Dr. Erin Donley, pediatrician with Akron Children’s Hospital, said by the time they find out the vaccine is not a good match it is too late.

“The amount of time it takes to go through the whole process over again, it takes too long to be able to effectively make it, so by the time we could do that, it would be well past our flu season,” Donley said.

Hospitals locally have put restrictions on visitors during this flu season. Mercy Health hospitals in the Valley are not letting anyone under 14 years old visit and no one is allowed to stay overnight.

ValleyCare issued the following statement Friday concerning restrictions at the health care facilities:

“ValleyCare Health System of Ohio hospitals have no visitor restrictions at this time. We are monitoring overall health conditions in the community and will implement restrictions with the assistance of the health department, if the need arises.”

“If your fever has gone on longer than four or five days, especially in a child, it is worth seeing your doctor to make sure there is not something else going on that isn’t just a viral illness or influenza,” Donley said.

It seems like common sense, but hand washing and covering coughs help protect against the spread or the virus.

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