This year's flu season: Public health catastrophe or par for the course?

Henrietta Strickland
February 2, 2018

"In Daviess County we have had under five deaths", Daviess County Public Health Nurse Kathy Sullender said.

It has recently secured funding from multiple investors (including the venture capital arm of Google parent company Alphabet, GV) and has already begun its two-year Phase II clinical trial of a universal flu vaccine.

If you received a flu shot this season and still ended up sick with the influenza virus, you would be in the majority.

"It is a cesspool of flu, a cesspool of funky flu at the ER right now", she said. "Are we at the peak yet?"

Is this year's flu outbreak worse than usual?

Since there are predictable times of the year when the flu will be more common, researchers have time to produce the vaccine in preparation.

Researchers at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control says the effectiveness of the vaccine has prevented between 10 to 20 per cent of infections.

Given that the vaccine strain is the same, the main question is what's different about vaccine performance this year, Belongia said. Even if the flu vaccine is not completely protective against H3N2, it can reduce the risk of a life-threatening case. For 2017-18, three-component vaccines are recommended by the CDC. According to the company, previous research has demonstrated that these T-cells can help the body to fight more than one type of influenza virus, which in turn should mean more people are protected after receiving the vaccine.

A stronger strand has been active this year that wasn't predicted. While the Canadian group has good news suggesting cross-lineage protection against influenza B, he said the low VE found for H3N2 is very disappointing, coming in substantially lower than the protection that both the United States and Canada saw against the strain last season. "The shot is usually about 50 to 60 percent effective".

"The bottom line is the protection for the H3N2 virus is low this season".

As we embark on a hard flu season, I look at why infection rates vary so much year on year and the potential universal vaccine one company is progressing through the clinical development stages. The CDC says most cough, cold and flu viruses are thought to be passed from person to person by contact with respiratory droplets when people with the flu cough, sneeze or even talk.

For more information about the flu and measures you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones, please visit the Virginia Department of Health's website. "This is one of those years".

The report does not estimate how well this year's vaccine protects against H1N1 viruses. That being said, urgent care and emergency facilities, including CVS Minute Clinic, are still able to vaccinate.

The mid-season estimates, published Thursday in the online journal Euro Surveillance, are important for helping to inform the World Health Organization, which will meet later this month to decide which influenza strains should be included in next year's vaccine.

Dr. Vyas stated the flu shots were not ineffective, but minimally it provides a 30% of protection.

The CDC states the best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated. They have programs to help cover that cost for low-income residents.

Experts say the influenza virus enters the body through the mouth, nose or eyes. NYU Students can obtain a free flu shot by making a flu vaccination appointment with the NYU Health Service.

What has not been as helpful is this year's flu vaccine. "It is not too late".

Most healthy adults can infect other people starting one day before symptoms develop and up to seven days after becoming sick.

Some students do not take certain safety precautions for themselves and others, such as receiving the vaccine, that is so highly recommended by the CDC and UT.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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