TODAY   |  January 15, 2014

Flu season hits its peak, deaths reported

With numerous deaths reported already around the country due to the H1N1 influenza virus, Dr. Keri Peterson stops by TODAY to share some important facts about prevention and vaccination.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> you know, it's that time of year, kids are home sick from school, your co-workers start going out one by one, now the flu season is at its peak.

>> widespread activity reported in 35 states now. there are seven confirmed deaths in california, illinois's department of public health reports ten deaths in that state. and in texas, specifically dallas county , there have been as many as 26 deaths.

>> it can be frightening. well, the h1n1 strain is most prevalent this season. and here with the flu facts to is carrie peterson. why is it this flu in particular we're seeing it's hitting harder younger people and middle-aged people rather than the elderly and, you know, the very young.

>> the reason is that the h1n1 is the predominant strain this year, about 98% of cases are the h1n1 and more commonly hits younger aged people rather than the elderly. if you were born before 1957 , there was a similar strain to the h1n1 . they may have immunity already because they were exposed to something similar already.

>> i think people think of swine flu from a couple years ago. is it different than that?

>> it's the same exact same strain as 2009 . the reason we're not as concerned about it is it is in the vaccine this year, '09 it was not.

>> speaking of the vaccine, there is that flu shot . is it too late to get that to be protected now?

>> absolutely not. it is not too late to get the flu shot . i would say it's a call to action to get the flu shot for anyone six months of age and older. if you haven't already, get it.

>> i know there are people with egg allergies say, i don't get the flu shot because i think i may have a reaction.

>> it's not egg allergies anymore, there's a vaccine available for people with egg allergies. there's one that's a nasal spray , there's a high dose for the elderly. but the absolute indication is if you've had a severe allergic reaction in the past. other than that, there may be a shot for you.

>> you mentioned the nasal spray . sometimes they give you the choice at the doctor's office. do you like one better than the other? does it matter?

>> if you look at studies, it's a live virus. not everyone can get it. only indicated ages 2 through 49 years of age. whereas the shot is a dead virus. there are some people who are not candidates for the nasal spray . but if you fall into the appropriate categories, it's an option.

>> every year, they have to figure out what the cocktail is going to be to fight the flu. in your opinion, have they gotten the cocktail right this year to fight this prevalent h1n1 ?

>> yes, they have. it is in the vaccine this year, and even though last year, there were not that many cases, this year, it is overwhelmingly the predominant strain. it is in the vaccine along with another type "a" strain and type "b" strain. there's one shot with three strains and one with four strains.

>> if you had the flu already this season but yet did not get the flu shot , is it advisable to go in now and get the flu shot , as well? can you still get the flu?

>> that's a great question. many people think i got the flu, i don't need it. but you don't know, necessarily, which strain you had and you're still susceptible to the others. you should get the flu shot but wait until you're better.

>> right.

>> if you're laid up in bed, carrie, got all those symptoms with the blue. at what point do you need to see a doctor?

>> this is very, very important.

>> there are certain groups of people that are at risk of complications of the flu. and these people need to call their doctor immediately. it's a large group , you can find it on the cdc, but to name a few, kids under 2 years of age, adults over 65, pregnant women , people who are immuno compromised, heart disease , obese, and alaskan and native indians are at high risk of complications. they have to call their doctor right away.

>> if you feel it coming on, call the doctor .

>> and it comes on fast and furious . you probably will suspect it. within three to six hours, high fevers, headaches, severe body aches, cough, sore throat. feels like you got hit by a truck.

>> and unfortunately, they end up in the hospital or often fatal cases.

>> that is a potential complication.

>> perhaps not related, but the fda has a new recommendation about acediminifin.

>> correct. recommendations to physicians to not prescribe combination medication that contains more than 325 milligrams of acediminifin. there are some with higher doses than that. the reason for this, it's been found to be linked to fatal cases of liver disease , liver damage , liver failure and death. nearly half of all cases of liver failure are now attributed to the inadvertent overdose of these prescription medications.

>> over the counter , the accede acediminifin is about 200 milligrams or so.

>> usually 325, but also comes in a 500 milligram dose. always take it as directed on the package and never combine it with alcohol.

>> all right. great information. thanks