Flu season could get worse before it gets better

Randolph Lopez
February 10, 2018

While federal officials were hoping that the flu season had already reached its peak, Anne Schuchat, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), had some unfortunate news that she shared with the Washington Post.

Most of Indiana's flu-related deaths this season have involved people age 65 and older, but almost 83 percent of the influenza-like illnesses reported this year to the state involve people age 24 and younger.

That strain is particularly hard on the elderly and children.

Dr. Nicola Mercer, the area's medical officer of health, says flu activity is increasing in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, with the past week bringing the area its highest number of flu cases so far this year.

Flu activity is still on the rise in the US, government officials said Friday, with several weeks left to go in the flu season.

A total of 3,985 influenza-positive laboratory tests have been reported since August 27, state officials said, with 1,360 patients hospitalized with confirmed cases of the flu in the same time span. OR and Hawaii are the two exceptions. One out of every 10 people who died in the USA last week died of flu or associated illness.

"Right now we see influenza activity in nearly all of the states, which is really pretty unusual for us", says Dr. Alicia Fry, who is chief of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch, Influenza Division. "Influenza-like illness is now at the same level as the peak week of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic". The H3N2 flu strain is infecting the most people, according to the CDC.

"In 2014-15, that number was 35.1 per 1,000".

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"We don't have any signs of hospitalizations leveling off yet", said Schuchat.

But the dominant strain this year is H3N2, and some virologists are saying it's the worst flu season in years, and it's backed by data. Information about the effectiveness of this year's seasonal flu vaccine, she said, will be released soon. "This years' virus isn't new in terms of antigenic risk". The agency's virologists are studying it to determine if there are any other explanations for why it's been so hard-hitting. The health department provides the four strain vaccine that protects against influenza A, influenza B, the B/Victoria lineage strain and the B/Yamagata lineage strain.

Despite the severity of the season, the American Lung Association says there are things you can do to avoid being stricken by the virus. There are many more cases than that because most people who get the flu don't go to a doctor or get tested. That means a vaccine may be effective in one city, but less effective in another if the strain changes by the time it crosses the country.

In recent studies from Australia and Canada, the flu shot was shown to be as little as 10-percent effective against the flu this year, depending on the age of the patient.

Schuchat said West Coast states are seeing more influenza B. And some protection is better than none. And the total to date of 3,839 hospitalizations is the second-highest in the last six flu seasons. Forbes reports it can take five to six months to develop a batch of influenza vaccines.

Don't spread the misery.

With a lousy chance of being protected against H3N2 this year, why get the flu shot? Sick people should cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.

Other reports by GlobalViralNews

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