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Young and middle-aged adults hit hardest by flu this season

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According to LiveScience on Thursday, the flu has been particularly bad this year among young and middle-age adults.

The CDC reported that 61 percent of all flu hospitalizations have been among adults ages 18 to 64 — an usually high percentage for this age group compared with previous seasons. During the last three flu seasons, adults in this age group have accounted for about 35 to 40 percent of flu hospitalizations, according to the CDC.

The age group also tends to have the lowest vaccination rates, Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters during a press conference.

This year’s flu shot has been found to be 61 percent effective thus far, the CDC reported in a separate study published in the same journal issue. That means people who got the vaccine were 61 percent less likely to have to go to a doctor because of the flu.

That number might sound low to some hoping for full protection, but it’s consistent with previous flu seasons: Last year, the CDC reported the flu vaccine was 62 percent effective for what turned out to be an especially severe flu season.

Flu is usually most dangerous to the elderly. But this season, the dominant strain was H1N1, which emerged in 2009. The last time a virus resembling H1N1 circulated was in the 1950s. People born later had never been exposed to it and had no immunity.

When H1N1 first appeared in 2009, so much of the population was vulnerable that it triggered a global pandemic, notable for high hospitalization and death rates among the young and middle-aged.

"Flu hospitalizations and deaths in people -- younger and middle-aged adults -- is a sad and difficult reminder that flu can be serious for anyone," said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC.

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Emily Sutherlin is also the Pregnancy Examiner.

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©2014 Emily M. Sutherlin. All Rights Reserved.

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