‘Tis the season . . . for colds and flu. That’s nothing new, really. What is new (and concerning) is that this year, there is a potentially deadly strain of the flu going around, the H3N2. It’s already been reported in 32 states, and doctors are warning that this could be a “severe” year for the flu.
Part of the problem is that doctors have to basically predict which flu strain will hit in order to get vaccines out to everyone prior to widespread infection. This year, the H3N2 started mutating, just after doctors created this season’s vaccine. Essentially, this means that this year’s vaccine isn’t going to work as effectively against the flu, and that could mean some serious problems, especially for those at high risk of complications.
Included in the list of most vulnerable are children under the age of 5 (especially those under the age of 2), adults aged 65 or older, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems or chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, kidney disease, or heart and lung disease.
So far, there have been 15 flu-related deaths among children in the United States, and there have already been more hospitalizations this year when compared to the same time in the previous two years. However, Dr. Michael Jhung, a medical officer with the CDC’s influenza division told Fox News that it’s too early to really determine how this year will compare to previous years in severity. However, he doesn’t predict that this year’s flu season will “terribly severe.”
“We’re seeing things that we see every year,” Jhung said. “We’re not seeing dramatically higher levels of flu activity than we see every year.”
It’s also too early to compare possible death rates (a total of 109 in children last year and 171 in the 2012-2013 flu season), Jhung said. However, he did suggest that those at highest risk receive flu anti-virals on top of their flu vaccines this year, just to add that extra layer of protection—especially since this year’s vaccine is likely to be less effective than some from previous years.
Jhung also recommended that everyone get their flu vaccine this year; only around 40 percent of people who the CDC believes should be vaccinated have done so this year, and even though it is less effective, there are still some benefits to getting vaccinated.
“We’re not even halfway through the flu season,” he said. “It’s certainly not too late to get vaccinated.”
And, as we’ve discussed before with previous illnesses, hand washing can go a long way in cutting back on the spread of germs, especially in young children. Also, if you, your child, or someone you love does get sick this flu season, watch carefully for signs of dehydration and seek medical attention if necessary.
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