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State says flu is moderate in Alaska

Posted: January 13, 2013 - 1:07am
Natalie Rauwolf, 9, of Madison, winces as she receives a flu shot from LPN Anna Fiore at the Dean West Clinic in Madison, Wis., Wednesday, January 10, 2012. ( AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, Amber Arnold)  Amber Arnold
Amber Arnold
Natalie Rauwolf, 9, of Madison, winces as she receives a flu shot from LPN Anna Fiore at the Dean West Clinic in Madison, Wis., Wednesday, January 10, 2012. ( AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, Amber Arnold)

ANCHORAGE — The level of influenza activity in Alaska is moderate but likely to increase, the state epidemiologist said Friday.

“There’s no sign that it’s going to be letting up any time soon,” Dr. Joe McLaughlin said. “What we’re seeing in the Lower 48 is high levels of influenza activity in 29 states, and this is likely to be heading our way.”

There have been no pediatric deaths reported to the state health department because of influenza in Alaska, he said. Adult deaths are not reportable.

There is no shortage of flu vaccine in Alaska, and McLaughlin strongly recommends people get vaccinated — even if someone has already had the flu.

There are two strains of influenza circulating in Alaska.

“If you already have had one bout of influenza, you’re only protected against that one strain,” he said.

“Getting that vaccine, even if you’ve already been sick, is a good idea,” McLaughlin said. “It doesn’t cost much to get protected from the flu.”

It’s also the socially responsible thing to do, he said.

“A lot of adults think, ‘You know, I don’t need to get the vaccine. I’m healthy. I can probably fight the flu off,’” he said.

But those people may never know who they might be infecting if they get the virus.

“You may give it to an adult who is immune compromised, or an elderly person or a young child who ultimately develops severe disease and may actually die from it,” McLaughlin said. “I really see this as a social responsibility issue.”

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