Essential Pittsburgh
5:12 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

Why Young People are Getting the Worst of the Flu

Hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent the H1N1 virus from spreading.
Credit SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget / flickr

The H1N1 flu is back and it's striking mostly young adults. More than 90 percent of flu cases statewide have been identified as the H1N1 strain, commonly referred to as "Swine Flu" since it reemerged in 2009 after lying dormant since the 1960s and 1970s.

Marc Itskowitz, an internal medicine physician at Allegheny General Hospital has the answer for why the swine flu is hitting young people so hard.

“Many of the young adults and children have not been exposed to this virus and therefore do not have built up, innate immunity to this virus. And so without the vaccine this is the most vulnerable population to get sick when they’re exposed to this infection.”

Itskowitz says there are two ways to prevent the spread of influenza; avoid those who are sick and/or stay home when you're sick, and get vaccinated.

“Some years the flu vaccine is very well matched to the circulating virus and this year, fortunately, it is well matched. The virus, H1N1, is contained within the flu vaccine and so we should see good protection this year...We do see cases of the flu that will continue into the spring, into March and April, and so if you get the vaccine now, you will have protection for the rest of the flu season.”