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While such a good match doesn't guarantee that this year's flu vaccine will be effective, it is a very good sign.

So far, across the state, there have been nine flu-related deaths during the current flu season.

Because flu viruses are constantly changing, flu vaccines are updated from one season to the next to protect against the most recent and most common circulating flu strains. To prevent the spread of flu infection, the DoH recommends that a person sick with influenza be provided with a separate room.

It comes as a report found fear of a vaccine's side effects, fuelled by myths on social media, is the top reason for people refusing them.

"Last year's flu season was notable for the severity, the number of people affected and the rate of hospitalizations", said Dr. Caitlin Pedati, state epidemiologist and medical director of the Iowa Department of Public Health. Caused by the influenza virus, the flu is among the leading causes of illness in the country, according to the Department of Health (DoH).

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Influenza immunizations are available free of charge to all Albertans older than six months. Results are shared with the World Health Organization (WHO) to help determine how to formulate the flu vaccine for the following season. Last year, the H3N2 strain, which is known to cause more severe illness, dominated.

"So that's a really important reduction in risk, especially for people with underlying medical conditions, who are facing a greater threat of serious complications if infected by influenza", she said from Vancouver. At least seven children under age 10 in Canada have died from influenza complications as of January 12, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Low vaccination rates among adults likely contributed to the high mortality rates last season, which hospitalized or killed more Americans than any seasonal flu in more than 40 years, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Their mid-season analysis, published online Thursday in the journal Euro Surveillance, shows this year's flu vaccine is 72 per cent effective in preventing infection with the H1N1 respiratory virus overall across all age groups.

Flu hospitalizations across the state are almost identical to last year but there have been more influenza-related deaths this year compared to last year during the same week, Warner said in the email. There were some 79,000 deaths, and close to a million hospitalizations.


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