Myth buster: Navy flu story going viral happened last year

- A headline on an article about a flu outbreak on a Navy ship that's circulating on the internet is not true. At least not this year. 

It was an article from 2014 that has since resurfaced. While active duty Navy, Dr. Theodore Aquino cared for crew members on nine ships, including the ship that was affected. "My job was to keep our sailors healthy," he said.

Part of that duty was to make sure everyone on board got a flu shot.  One of his ships, the U.S.S. Ardent had a 99% vaccination rate. Dr. Aquino says crew members had been vaccinated at a variety of different clinics, kinds of vaccines shots, intranasal and intradermal.  That year, the vaccine was thought to be a good match with circulating viral strains.

But in February 2014, Dr. Aquino got news he didn't expect.  Twenty five of 102 crew members had the flu.  He searched for reasons why the vaccines didn't protect the sailors. 

"I wish I could give you an answer. I believe that the record keeping was strong. I don't think there were any issues there. I really don't have an answer," he replied

The CDC says outbreaks on ships are not uncommon because infectious diseases spread more easily when large groups of people are in close contact.  As for the vaccine, studies show they're about 61% effective.

The CDC says they don't calculate protection rates on ships, but if you crunch the numbers, it appears that the vaccine may have protected 75% of the crew. 

After learning about the outbreak, Dr. Aquino focused on stopping the spread on the U.S.S. Ardent, and the other ships moored at the dock.  "Number one is that we communicated to the other ships that this risk was there and that they needed to be careful about how they were going about cleaning and hand hygiene. Properly covering your mouth," he said.

Even though the vaccine didn't perform the way he'd hoped, he's speaking out, after discovering some groups are using this example as a reason, to skip the shot.  "I definitely absolutely believe that you should become vaccinated against the flu. The flu is dangerous. The flu kills healthy young people every year so it is nothing to fool around with."

More information: 
http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6342a3.htm

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/vaccination/effectiveness-studies.htm.


 

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