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Doctors: Not enough Alaskans getting flu vaccines

Posted: December 31, 2013 - 1:08am

ANCHORAGE — Too few Alaskans are getting an annual flu shot, doctors say, with some patients claiming they are too healthy to need a vaccination and others saying the side effects scare them away.

“Every year you get hundreds of thousands of people in the United States alone who are hospitalized as a result of influenza infection,” said Dr. Joe McLaughlin, Alaska state epidemiologist. “You don’t get that with the common cold.”

This week, Alaska state health officials began tracking adults who die from the flu, KTUU-TV reported.

There have been no reported flu deaths in the state, but McLaughlin said doctors and hospitals previously have been required to report only deaths among children.

This year, there have been more than 240 reported cases of influenza in Alaska, according to state figures. The majority of the cases are type-A flu, which includes the H1N1 strain, also known as swine flu.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more young and middle-age adults are getting respiratory infections because of the flu, and doctors urge people to get a yearly vaccination.

Dr. Jeanette Legenza at the Children’s Clinic in Anchorage said the clinic is diagnosing cases of the flu among patients who have not been vaccinated.

“They tend to get sicker when they get the flu,” Lenenza said. “They also tend to be the ones who can spread it around the community the best.”

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