AUGUSTA, Maine — According to the CDC, 80,000 Americans died from the flu and flu-related complications during the 2017-2018 season. That was the highest number of flu deaths in four decades. In Maine, 82 people died-- the highest number of flu deaths in 5 years.
This year, so far, looks a lot different. The CDC reports 270 deaths nationwide as of Dec. 28. In Maine, 2 people have died from the flu as of December 29th.
Dr. August Valenti is the hospital epidemiologist at Maine Medical Center. He says the flu vaccine varies in it's efficacy. Last year’s vaccine was not very effective.This year’s vaccine is different.
"The predominant strain is H1N1, and the vaccine is 98.7 percent effective against that strain right now," Dr. Valenti said.
So if there’s no flu outbreak, and we’re mid-way through winter, is still worth getting vaccinated?
Dr. Valenti says that’s a no-brainer.
"Maine is still rated by the CDC as being sporadic which means we’re not seeing big outbreaks and focused outbreaks so i think that it is absolutely imperative that people get vaccinated," Dr. Valenti said.
Doctor Valenti says everyone should get a vaccine, but populations like the very young and the elderly NEED to get it.
"Patients for instance who have cancer and are on chemotherapy, patients with certain kinds of heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, those patients are most vulnerable. And so, if you are living with a family member that is vulnerable, that’s another reason to get the influenza vaccine," Dr. Valenti said.
Maine Medical Center has a list of influenza FAQ's on their website.