Flu vaccine less than 20 percent effective against H3N2 strain, researchers say

Flu vaccine less than 20 percent effective against H3N2 strain, researchers say

(CBS News) - The emergency room at Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital has been overwhelmed by the H3N2 strain of the influenza virus. Starting this week, staff have quarantined new flu patients in a separate mobile waiting room typically reserved for use in natural disasters like hurricanes.

"So we've had, I'd say about a 25 percent increase on certain days," said Dr. Hany Atallah, Grady's chief of emergency medicine. "So you physically just need a place to put a patient in, so this is going to help solve that."

What has not been as helpful is this year's flu vaccine. Canadian researchers reported Thursday that it's less than 20 percent effective against the flu's most dominant strain.

In Georgia, the flu epidemic has killed 37 people, 25 of whom were 65 or older. In neighboring North Carolina on Thursday, concern about the flu led Duke University to shut down "Krzyzewskiville," the tent city where students camp out for the best basketball tickets. The state has reported 95 flu deaths.

In all, 49 states have reported widespread flu outbreaks, and health officials say the flu season's peak is still two to three weeks away.

Katherine Lockler, a frustrated nurse in Pensacola, Florida, recorded a flu warning on YouTube that now has more than 3 million views.

"It is a cesspool of flu, a cesspool of funky flu at the ER right now," she said. "So, please don't bring your teen in, please don't bring your healthy children, especially your newborn babies into the emergency room."

"One of the frustrations is carelessness," she said. "Not washing hands. People are bringing family members to the ER when its not an emergency. You don't have to use resources for life-threatening events to see if you have something."

Because kids can be germ magnets, Grady Hospital has banned anyone under 14 from visiting patients. Health officials said Thursday that Georgia will break its record of 59 flu deaths soon.

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